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1999-08-27
Chandler, AZ. Wal-Mart's Oversized Foot

Chandler, AZ became the third community in one week to reject a Wal-Mart (see Eureka, CA and Manhattan, KS stories below). 750 residents jammed into two city meeting rooms and out into a courtyard, to see the City Council unanimously vote down Vestar Development's plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter. The rejection capped a process in Chandler that sprawled out over nearly 2 years and involved thousands of South Chandler residents. The City Council vote rejected the advice of the City's Planning Department, and sided instead with residents of the abutting Ocotillo community. "Everyone has tried to fit an oversized foot into a shoe that's just too small," City Councilor Boyd Dunn told the Arizona Republic newspaper. Residents complained that the store, the size of four football fields, would decrease property values, increase crime in the area, worsen air quality, and create unworkable traffic. Two schools are located down the street from the proposed superstore. One 4 year old boy testified at the public hearing: "Don't build a store by Jackson's school," he said. "so the truck don't run over me when I'm crossing the street." The Wal-Mart plans called for a 212,000 s.f. superstore, another 17,500 s.f. of retail shops, and a bank, all on only 22 acres of land. Residents had earlier succeeded in getting the developer to delete plans for a tire center, a gas station and a convenience store on the corner of the lot. After the vote, Wal-Mart's lawyer said the company had hired "a litigation attorney" and might be considering a lawsuit against the city. The city's Mayor, Jay Tibshraeny, responded with aplomb: "If we get sued, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Wal-Mart would have to show that the city acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner to prevail in court. The Concerned Citizens of Southwest Chandler gathered more than 4,000 signatures against the Wal-Mart plan, and residents are already gearing up for the next fight to protect this parcel of land, which some say is now coveted by Home Depot. A new Target store is already slated for the same intersection, and an Albertson's grocery on another corner of the intersection.

What you can do: When residents against Wal-Mart showed up for the Chandler hearing, they found that many seats in the meeting room were already filled up two hours before the hearing began. It turns out that roughly 150 Wal-Mart employees and supporters were at the meeting. The employees were not only "on the clock" and getting paid to be at the hearing, but they were given mileage to come too. The Wal-Mart early birds, or the "paid audience", forced other residents to find seats outside of the chambers. Whether Wal-Mart could find real Chandler residents or not, they have the capacity to bring along a legion of paid Walmartian cheerleaders to support the cause. In this case, all those paid workers got to see was the aspect of their company being shot down after listening to four hours of testimony. Eureka, CA, Manhattan, KS, and Chandler, AZ: 3 Wal-Marts defeated in less than 5 days. A fruitful week for busting sprawl!










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

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