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2006-05-05
Hercules, CA. City May Use Eminent Domain On Wal-Mart

Sprawl-Busters reported on April 5, 2006 that Wal-Mart was trying to woo the city of Hercules, California by proposing a smaller store than the original plan that the city tossed out. But apparently a smaller Wal-Mart has not generated any larger interest on the part of the city, and now local officials in Hercules are starting to flex their muscles against the giant retailer. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Hercules City Council will consider whether or not to use eminent domain to take possession of the 17-acre parcel owned by Wal-Mart. The retailer refused the city's offer to buy the land, which has water views of San Pablo Bay, so the city may take it anyway. What's known as a "resolution of necessity" is being prepared for the City Council's May 23 rd. meeting. Wal-Mart has owned the land for about seven months, having purchased it from another developer who had been approved for a smaller shopping center. When Wal-Mart stepped forward with a big box switch, Hercules officials rejected the plan, saying it was incompatible with the smaller scale center approved by the city. Wal-Mart pulled its plans before the city's Planning Commission could act on it, and the City Council then offered to buy it from Wal-Mart. At the end of March, Wal-Mart came back in with a smaller plan, but one city councilor told the Chronicle, "What the council has said is that we want to buy the property. At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time." Wal-Mart's smaller concept, is still a supercenter, with a plaza for pedestrians, some smaller shops, and a pharmacy. "We're disappointed that the city is really playing politics with the future of Hercules rather than looking at the big picture," a Wal-Mart spokesman was quoted as saying, making an unfortunate choice of image. "Big picture" is exactly what City officials don't want, and Wal-Mart offers nothing but a "big picture." As usual, Wal-Mart tried to ignore local opposition, and instead invoke its customers as the prime reason city officials should see it Wal-Mart's way. "Many residents of the city who we've talked to are frustrated and anxious for this much-needed retail project to move forward."

What you can do: Remember Hercules when you hear Wal-Mart's CEO talking about how the company has to be more flexible when working with local communities. Hercules is just the latest example of how Wal-Mart tries to push its way into a community by ignoring what city leaders want, and dig in their corporate heels. This is not flexibility, this is just corporate arrogance, and persistence in the face of opposition. Like the town of Brick, New Jersey, which took land by eminent domain to eliminate a Home Depot, many residents in Hercules would like nothing better than to see the city flex its muscles and force a deal on the company that has forced itself on so many small towns across America. For earlier stories on this theme, search Newsflash by "eminent domain."










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

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