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1999-07-20
Ashland, VA. Flamingos Attack Wal-Mart.

Pink Flamingos are not a bird indigenous to the small town of Ashland, VA, which lies about 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. in the heartland of Virginia. But the community has been flooded with plastic pink flamingos -- the tacky symbol of opposition to a proposed 179,000 s.f. Wal-Mart hard by interstate 95. Ashland is a community that already has at least three major malls, with anchors like Ukrops, Food Lion, Rose's and other stores that would compete with Wal-Mart. The downtown of Ashland has a full block of empty stores where the movie theatre once lived. In 1992, Ashland had 12 food stores, and one out of four dollars spent on retail there was for food. Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter in Ashland to eat up some of that food market share. Only 7.2 square miles of land, Ashland calls itself the "center of the universe", which makes it a natural attraction to Wal-Mart, which wants to control the universe. There are already two Wal-Mart stores within 10 miles of the Center of the Universe. In fact, Wal-Mart is listed as the 9th. largest employer in Hanover county already. The land Wal-Mart wants is predominately zoned industrial, and represents one of the last, largest pieces of industrial property available. The 79 acres the developer covets for a mall is 68% larger than the entire downtown. Ashland is a community that looks to tourism to help feed its meals and lodging tax, which bring in more revenue than the property tax. The community touts its charming, Victorian atmosphere, and its small town character. Many residents with pink flamingos on their lawn, or in their store windows, don't find anything charming or Victorian about a huge Wal-Mart supercenter. Ashland's own economic development staff have warned about the loss of developable industrial sites that the down-zoning to commercial would create. Ashland's own development goals stress the importance of "maintaining a small town atmosphere", avoiding strip development, and sustaining the downtown as "the town's major commercial center". Wal-Mart would turn the town's Comprehensive Plan on its head. The project has to be reviewed first by the Planning Commission, and then by the five member Town Council. More than 300 residents turned out this week to a special forum on the impacts of Wal-Mart, and were almost unanimously concerned about the loss of the unique character of town. Shopping centers in Ashland require a conditional use permit, and must "be in accord with the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan". Councilors have the tools they need to keep Wal-Mart out of the center of the universe.

What you can do: The flamingo is a bird that can stand for long periods of time on one leg. Area residents are hopeful that the retail community in Ashland does not have to learn how to survive on one leg. Existing malls like Ashland Junction will absorb the greatest impact if Wal-Mart comes to town, and the Mechumps creek that runs through the property will certainly be degraded, eventually dumping its waters into the Chesapeake Bay.Residents are also concerned about worsening air quality in the area. The developer's attorney has told residents that his company will soon make public an economic impact study about the full impact of their 410,000 s.f. Wal-Mart mall. Before the study is even published, local residents say they know what it will conclude: Wal-Mart will have no adverse impact on any public services or public revenues. But the flamingos in town know better. For more details about the Ashland battle, contact sprawl-busters at info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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