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2006-12-22
Lancaster, CA. Neighbors Upset By Plans For Wal-Mart Supercenters

There are two Wal-Mart discount stores in Lancaster, California, and for those addicted to supercenters, the one on Palmdale is roughly 6 miles away. But the land-voracious retailer is not done with the Lancaster market. It wants more and more market share. This week, residents in Quartz Hill, California, which borders Lancaster, wrote to Sprawl-Busters for help in stopping the Wal-Mart saturation all around them. "Our rural community in Southern California has just found out the Lancaster is planning on building super centers right on our boundary lines. For years Lancaster and Palmdale have been encroaching upon us and annexing as much of our rural land as possible. It has been left undeveloped for quite some time with the exception of many housing tracts. Lancaster currently has two Wal-Marts, and a supercentere in Palmdale. The hubs of their cities are 8-10 miles away from our small community of 10,000 residents, where they want to build new super centers. The only thing currently bordering the planned site is Quartz Hill High School (which Lancaster actually annexed
from us years ago). This whole plan is ludicrous, will destroy Quartz Hill, and we need help."

What you can do: It is ironic that this is the second story today Sprawl-Busters has written about a town named Lancaster -- each on a different seaboard. Lancaster, Massachusetts is also fighting a Wal-Mart superstore. From coast to coast, Lancasters are in the Wal-Mart spotlight. This Quartz Hill controversy is what happens in states like California, where property taxes are severely limited by state law, and communities fight with their neighbors over sales tax revenues to fund their police, fire, schools and roads. It's been called "cash box zoning," because it makes little sense from a land use perspective, but is proposed only as a revenue-generator. Local officials rarely calculate the true cost to their communities of providing police, fire, water, sewer and roads to these huge projects. In this case, Lancaster has literally been eating up Quartz Hill, which does not want to become a retail annex to Lancaster. Lancaster is already inundated with big box stores. The "old" Wal-Mart discount stores will surely close as they are replaced by the larger, more profitable supercenters. Nearby Palmdale already has a supercenter, so the introduction of new supercenters brings no added value to the local economy. Because there is no regional planning in California, these neighbors will continue to be at retail war with one another. The state has passed a law that requires a community which 'steals' a mall from a neighboring town to share the sales taxes for the next ten years (search Newsflash by "Torlakson"), but in this case, Quartz Hill just wants Lancaster to stop pilfering its land by annexation, and to stop building big stores right on its border. The town of Mamaroneck, New York passed a law that allowed the town to regulate development on its border, but Sprawl-Busters is not certain that this law has ever been tested in court. Certainly the idea of "territorial waters" has allowed nations to extend their influence beyond their physical borders, but Quartz Hill will have to intervene strongly in the Lancaster hearings to make their wishes known -- and consult with a good land use attorney. For local contacts in Quartz Hill, email info@sprawl-busters.com.










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

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