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2007-02-19
Irmo, SC. Wal-Mart Opponents Want To Form Their Own Town

Don't like the growth policies of your local town officials? Form your own town! When officials in Irmo, South Carolina decided to annex land from Richland County in order to build a Wal-Mart, the residents in the affected area began talking about creating the new town of Ballentine, to gain more control over how land in their community is used. Sprawl-Busters reported on August 30, 2006, that there are six Wal-Mart supercenters within 20 miles of the town of Irmo. In order to help Wal-Mart build a 196,000 s.f. store on Dutch Fork Road, the Irmo Town Council had to annex a 100-foot-wide strip of land, two-miles long, that runs along railroad tracks to connect the 46 acre site Wal-Mart wants with the existing town limits. Residents in Ballentine, an unincorporated area of the county, have been talking about incorporating for at least six years, but the issue of incorporation floundered until Irmo's recent annexation for Wal-Mart. According to The State newspaper, Irmo officials are now threatening Ballentine residents to stop opposing the annexation, or their hopes of incorporating a new town is over, since Irmo has to agree to the incorporation. Irmo officials are reportedly angry at neighborhood leaders for continuing their efforts to block the huge Wal-Mart shopping center. "They've been put on notice that if they keep monkeying with us, we'll monkey with them," Irmo Mayor John Gibbons said. "I'd rather let them go and not be a stumbling block, but they keep throwing gas on the fire." But the leaders of Ballentine First say that they want more control over development where they live. Irmo officials "are being bullies," said Pam Mason, one of the leaders of Ballentine First. One town council member in Irmo told the newspaper, "If Ballentine wants to incorporate, they need to get out of Irmo's business. Otherwise, I'm going to challenge everything they are doing." "We're very serious about this being in the wrong location," Mason responded. "It's in our neighborhood, so, yeah, I'm going to poke my nose into it." So far, joint borders have been agreed to between Ballentine and Irmo -- but Irmo is making Wal-Mart acceptance part of the incorporation deal. A third Councilman in Irmo accused Ballentine First of standing in Irmo's way, and said their opposition to Wal-Mart "needs to be reined in" quickly. "They're not trying to stop it because it's the best thing for the area," he said. "They're trying to stop Irmo from growing."

What you can do: If you look at Irmo's annexation plan on a map, there is a long, thin finger of land that stretches out from Irmo along a railroad track right-of-way two miles into the county. At the end of that long finger is the proposed Wal-Mart development. The town of Irmo says it is reaching out into the county to "control" this Wal-Mart project, because Irmo would rather control its impact than leave it to Richland County. Ballentine residents point out that Wal-Mart would be located in a largely rural area, where such a huge development is inharmonious with the rest of the surrounding area. Now town officials are telling neighbors to "get out of Irmo's business," when in fact the annexation clearly shows that it is Irmo that is sticking its 'finger" into Ballentine's eye. Irmo is monkeying around with Ballentine's neighborhood, and not surprisingly, Ballentine is monkeying back. It is the Irmo town council that poured gas on the fire. Now they don't like the heat they generated. For more background, go to http://www.ballentinefirst.com










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

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