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2006-04-25
Lawrence, KS. City Settles Out of Court For Wal-Mart Cut In Half

Residents in Lawrence, Kansas have been fighting a Wal-Mart for at least three years now. Sprawl-Busters has written at least five stories since 2001 about this community's battle with Wal-Mart. The proposal for a Wal-Mart along Wakarusa Drive turned into a legal waka-waka, with Wal-Mart spending a small fortune on legal bills, rather than building a store. But a judge this week approved a settlement in the case that ends no less than seven lawsuits that were filed against city officials because they would not allow Wal-Mart to build their superstore. District Court Judge Michael Malone gave Wal-Mart and 6Wak Land Investments, which owns the building site, half a year to submit a scaled-back plan that is to meet city approval. On Oct. 27, 2006 the city and Wal-Mart will appear back in court to iron out any issues. "Hopefully they will be few and far between," the judge told the Lawrence Journal World. The settlement was reached to prevent the case from going to trial. Under the agreement, the new Wal-Mart will be limited to 99,990 s.f., plus a 6,500-s.f. garden center. Wal-Mart's original plans for a 200,000-s.f. store were rejected by the city, as was their second proposal for a 132,000-s.f. Now they are down to half the size of their original plan. But some residents in Lawrence would rather have no loaf than half a loaf. Here's what they wrote this week to Sprawl-Busters: "Our neighborhood, which collected more than 400 signatures, is devastated. This so-called scaled-back version doesn't prevent Wal-Mart from building or requesting an expansion later. Furthermore, the proposed location is right next to a high-school full of young drivers, and is at a very large, busy intersection (only going to get worse with them here). We already have a large Wal-Mart which can be accessed within 10 minutes from any point in the city, and they are undergoing remodeling into a "super-store" at this moment, will carry a full-line grocery, etc. It is heart-breaking. Is all hope lost? Is there anything we can do now? Do the citizens need their own lawyer?"

What you can do: Lawrence officials fought this project for three years, and in successive battles, managed to cut the project in half. Along with that decision came 7 lawsuits. The city was surely looking for a way to avoid a costly court case, and settled for half the plan. Neighbors have every right to be disappointed, however, since a 99,000 s.f. store is still almost the size of two football fields, and there is a Wal-Mart supercenter not too far away. It is unlikely at this point that the neighbors could mount a legal challenge. They should have been at the table a long time ago, as a party in their own suit, or as a friend of the court supporting city officials. This case is a victory and a defeat at the same time. What is most remarkable, is that Wal-Mart continues its rhetoric about being more flexible in dealing with local communities, yet fights for years in court to push their way under the tent. They don't really need to expand this new store, which is their "Urban 99" format designed for towns with a 100,00 s.f. cap. For earlier stories, search by "Lawrence."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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