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2006-02-11
Perrysburg, OH. Donít Like Wal-Mart? Donít Shop There.

Here's a typical Wal-Mart story from a typical American town. A proposed 217,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore on 30 acres of land in Perrysburg, Ohio has received first approvals from the Wood county Planning Commission. The giant retail store will be near a shopping center appropriately called "The Crossroads of America." The conditions imposed on the store are minor: landscaping, sound, light pollution, and traffic. These are the kind of "conditions" Wal-Mart loves, because they are low-cost accommodations. When the public hearing took place, the Toledo Blade reported that few of the nearly 20 people in the audience commented on the project. One man expressed concerns about the effects of sound and lights from the store's 1,013 car parking lot on residents of the adjacent Heartland of Perrysburg nursing home. The commissioners responded by suggesting that Wal-Mart build a sound barrier -- which is always an admission that two land uses are not compatible. The Zoning Commission still has to hold its public hearing on plans for the store, which would sit on land zoned for a planned-unit development. This will be the second Wal-Mart in the Toledo area. One resident at the Wal-Mart hearing asked the planning commission what could be done about the economic impact of Wal-Mart on employees in the region. "Wal-Mart and their employment practices are not good," he said. The planning commission responded that they have no control over what retailer moves into the site, and they would be going through the same process if the proposed store were a Meijer or Costco. But then Wood County Commissioner added the classic line designed to shut down any further discussion of bad land use planning. "If you don't like them, Commissioner Tom Brown said, "don't shop there."

What you can do: More than any other obstacle to fighting a Wal-Mart, the issue most frequently raised by citizens is the 'done deal' syndrome. In Perrysburg, citizens would be correct to assume that public officials are primed to approve this store. Even though they know its incompatible with other surrounding uses, rather than limit the size of the use, they tell other residents (in this case the Heartland nursing home) that Wal-Mart will have to build a sound wall. And while its true that planning commissions do not investigate the employment practices of any retailer, Commissioner Wood's response that if you don't like Wal-Mart, don't shop there, has nothing to do with his board's total lack of sensitivity to this project as an inappropriately-scaled land use. The citizens in Perrsyburg could respond: "If you don't like the land use, just don't permit it." The fact is, a store this size is going to change the character of this community, and force everyone around it to live with its noise, lights and pollution. The conditions imposed on this project were like giving a suspended sentence to a murderer. Still, the American public would do well to take Commissioner Tom Brown's advice: If you don't like Wal-Mart, don't shop there.










 
 
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