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2006-05-30
Crescent City, FL. Wal-Mart Apologizes Over Eminent Domain Threat

Savor this, because it does not happen often: a "dismayed" and "outraged" Wal-Mart apologizing to a community. But that's exactly what happened recently over the sensitive issue of eminent domain. On May 12, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that a real estate consultant representing Wal-Mart had threatened homeowners in Crescent City, Florida that if they didn't sell an easement or right of way onto their property to make way for a 800,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Distribution Center, that the retailer was prepared to ask Putnam County officials to use eminent domain to get their land. Given the fact that Wal-Mart is twisted in a knot over plans by the California community of Hercules (see story) to take their land by eminent domain to stop a supercenter, it would prove embarrassing to raise a stink in Hercules while using the same tactic in Florida. So Wal-Mart profusely apologized to residents for the strong-arm tactics. Here is the letter to the editor Wal-Mart had printed in the May 26th Daytona Beach News-Journal: "The news item regarding Wal-Mart's planned distribution center in Putnam County did not fully convey our outrage, dismay and overall concern over a letter sent to a group of local property owners. As senior manager, Public Affairs Logistics, for Wal-Mart, I can say that we sincerely apologize for the tone and content contained in letters issued to Putnam County property owners who were recently contacted by a third-party broker retained by our company. We certainly do not condone the aggressive language used in letters to the individual property owners and never would have approved the tone or text of those letters had we seen them in advance of their distribution. We have never had any discussions with local, state or county officials regarding the use of condemnation or eminent domain and have no plans to enter down that path. Our position was from the start, and still is today, that should the negotiations with individual property owners break down, we will evaluate alternative truck routes unrelated to these parcels of land. There are a variety of other alternative options we are evaluating to ensure that our trucks have safe access into and out of the planned facility, but none of the options we are considering involves the use of condemnation or eminent domain. We sincerely apologize for the tone of those letters and do not condone the actions and representations made by this third-party consultant. KEITH MORRIS, Bentonville, Ark."

What you can do: What a wonderful bureaucracy. They call these public relations people, managers of "Public Affairs Logistics." The logistics here clearly could have proven very embarrassing, just as Wal-Mart is threatening to sue the city of Hercules for using eminent domain on them. So Wal-Mart tries to distance itself by calling their real estate agent a "third-party consultant." They hire these local people all the time: lawyers, real estate agents, traffic engineers, etc. When they screw up, as this one did, they become "third party consultants." But to the residents of Crescent City who don't want this huge distribution center breathing down their neighborhood, no "sincere apology" will be enough -- unless Wal-Mart pulls the plug on the entire project. Wal-Mart, by the way, has been involved in other eminent domain cases, where cities and towns declared land blighted, and then allowed Wal-Mart to build on it. For earlier stories on this community, search Newsflash by "Crescent City."










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

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