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2006-12-03
Knightdale, NC. Citizen Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart Heard By Judge

On August 29, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that a group called CARE, Citizens Against Residential Encroachment, had filed a lawsuit against the town of Knightdale, North Carolina for voting to rezone residential land to commercial, in order to build a Super Wal-Mart shopping center. In June, the town council voted 3-2 to allow the developer, Wakefield Associates, to build the Village Park Commons, a shopping center with about 439,000 s.f. of retail space. The project required the rezoning of 19 acres of land for a 206,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter. The lawsuit, filed by 19 plaintiffs, went to court in Raleigh on November 30th , and according to group organizer Rita Rakestraw, the suit seeks to force a revote by the Town Council. The plaintiffs charge that Knightdale failed to properly notify surrounding residents of public hearings to discuss the case and that the town should not have granted the developer numerous exceptions to its own ordinances. The lawsuit also claims that one of the council members who voted for the project, should have recused himself from the vote because of a conflict of interest. "I hope the judge will agree with us and say the town of Knightdale didn't go about things the right way when they had the vote on rezoning, and I hope he'll rule that they have to restart the process," Rakestraw told the Eastern Wake News. "Hopefully, democracy will prevail and we'll get a chance to have a fair vote." The town meanwhile has asked the court to force CARE to pay its legal bills in defending its decision. CARE held Tupperware sales and carwashes to raise enough funds to pay for the lawsuit against the world's largest retailer. "I think it's unfair that a whole street never received notification telling them about the public hearing for the Super Wal-Mart," Rakestraw said. "I've been reading more books about chains and big boxes, and how America is changing. Towns all over the country are trying to focus on local businesses and independently operated businesses. I think with Knightdale growing, a lot of people would like to see local people getting a fair share of the business. That's just not going to happen when they have to compete against these chains. I try to shop locally. But it's so hard now." Knightdale officials claim they want a more pedestrian-oriented community, but Rakestraw says their decisions don't match their vision. "We already have a Wal-Mart three miles down the road. How is this going to help traffic? It would be nice to have a little bakery and a little bookstore in town run by local people. I would like to see the money stay in the town. Independently owned businesses give the town a nice feel. We don't want to be just another cookie cutter town with chain stores everywhere."

What you can do: The Knightdale case is now in the hands of Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry Barnett. According to Rakestraw, the lawyers on each side got to talk for 15 minutes. Then there was about 5 minutes of rebuttal. "I thought our lawyer did an excellent job. He was clear and to the point," she told Sprawl-Busters. The group CARE has been scraping together funds to fight town officials, while Wal-Mart sits on the sidelines. The town says it wants CARE to pay its legal bills, when the town didn't have to spend a penny on this lawsuit. All the town had to do was call up Wal-Mart and tell them, "This is your rezoning and your project, so you and the developer can pay our legal costs." The idea that Knightdale taxpayers should pay for Wal-Mart's defense is absurd. The idea that these 19 plaintiffs, who are also Knightdale taxpayers, should have to pay twice is also absurd. These plaintiffs are already helping to pay for the town's defense. It should be a source of embarrassment to town officials that their own citixens are suing them. Asking them for legal costs is an added affront, and has a chilling effect on First Amendment rights. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by "Knightdale." For local contacts or to contribute money, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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