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1999-06-02
Mount Pleasant, WI. Home Depot's Road Show

Do the roads in your town need repair? Are local officials wondering how to fix that stretch of road without exhausting the town budget? Officials in Mount Pleasant have come up with an innovative way to get that costly roadwork done: leave it to Home Depot! Yes, the company that sells sheetrock and pool chemicals also does road repairs! In fact, you could say Home Depot was able to pave its way into Mount Pleasant -- despite what the Journal Times newspaper called "a strong and organized protest group of residents living near the site." On May 24th, the Mount Pleasant Town Board voted 4-1 to completely rezone 35 acres of land on Green Bay road for commercial use, laying the groundwork for a controversial 120,000 s.f. Home Depot. If any one of the 4 Board members in favor of the project had voted No, the rezoning would have failed, because it required a supermajority vote to proceed. One Board member told reporters that he voted Yes on Home Depot because the company said it would commit $3 million to improve the intersetion of roadway near the store. The Town admits that the corner where the Depot wants to build is the busiest intersection in town. The Board member depicted Home Depot as a "tourniquet" for the well-traveled intesection, but the lone dissenting Board member, Mark Gleason, warned that Home Depot would only make the level of service there worse by flooding the roadway with cars. Don Schulz, who voted with Home Depot, made a simple observation: "Who else is going to pay to improve that intersection?" Home Depot also offered to pay the state of Wisconsin $100,000 to draft new traffic plans for the area. The state had given the company a deadline of June 1st to make the payment. And its non-refundable, so Wisconsin gets to keep the money if Home Depot later decides the construction is unfeasible, so state officials are happy. Gleason said he had nothing against Home Depot, but could not support the plan because of its size. "The development, as is, I'm afraid will overload the area...if it is smaller, I will vote for it." It turns out Home Depot had a little extra help in Mount Pleasant -- from a Higher Authority. The land Home Depot wants belongs to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. The Church stands to make $5 million from the sale of 30 acres. When the sale goes through, the church will take the money and build a new church on nearby Spring Street -- leaving the neighborhood with a huge Home Depot and its traffic problems everyday of the week. Not exactly the answer to the local homeowner's prayers.

What you can do: Envisioning Home Depot as a resolution to traffic problems is like recruiting Count Dracula to help with your blood drive! Huge corporate interests should underwrite the cost of road improvements -- but they should not get land rezoned to build megastores as a way to fix up a road. Wal-Mart attempted to offer the same kind of "road fix" in my hometown six years ago, and such deals are increasingly common. Fix a road, donate land for a schoool -- whatever. These "sweeteners" are often what sells out a neighborhood. We have also seen several examples of Churches using their property to sell out to a large retailer, leaving the entire community up in arms, while the Church coffers swell. So check with your local Highway Department. It you have a stretch of road that needs some work, maybe what you really need is a Home Depot! For more information on the Mount Pleasant deal, contact sprawl-busters.com.










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

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