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2007-03-04
Oro Valley, AZ. Town Pays $23 Million To Get A Wal-Mart

This has to be one of the biggest corporate welfare subsidies in America. This week, Sprawl- Busters received the following email from an Arizona community that is giving a Wal-Mart developer a gold-plated invitation into town: "We are trying to stop a developer from bringing in a Wal-Mart that he knows we do not want! Our town, Oro Valley (North of Tucson, AZ) signed an Economic Development Agreement with the developer, Vestar, in which the developer was given half of the
sales tax revenue from the projected mall for 10 years, or up to $23.2 million dollars. For that he was supposed to bring us quality, upscale stores, an extraordinary shopping experience and a destination shopping center. Quite a few people were against this shopping center from Day 1 -- and I was one of them -- because it is to be built on our beautiful scenic corridor near the Catalina mountains and a State Park. However, the Oro Valley Town Council has never met a developer they didn't like! Some of us formed an opposition group calling itself SOVOG or Stop Oro Valley's Outrageous Give-aways. We got up a referendum so that the people could vote on the matter. Vestar and the Town Council banded together to sue our organization. Some of the local food stores supported SOVOG financially for awhile. They paid some of our lawyers. Our group, SOVOG, went thru 6 court cases and prevailed. We won in court...and the town was forced to pay our lawyers. While all of this was going on, Vestar sent out colorful fliers for months, one a week to every resident. They promised convenience. People evidently believed that the developer was going to pay for our schools and our library and our infrastructure, etc. This was not
true, except for a small amount of sales tax revenue that would go to the State, and therefore pay a very small amount towards these things. The people finally got the right to vote. They voted 42% for SOVOG (no mall) and 58% for the mall (and Vestar, the developer.) Now Vestar has announced that they will bring in Wal-Mart instead of the upscale stores. We feel especially cheated because they lied to us. We paid $23.2 milloin for a Wal-Mart. We have organized a small group that wants to boycott Wal-Mart, amd all of the stores in the mall. We have heard that the other stores may pressure Vestar to give us what we want if they are threatened with a boycott."

What you can do: There's gold in Oro Valley -- but it turns out to be welfare payments to retail companies. The Arizona Daily Star says that along the edges of Tucson, Arizona "big boxes are blossoming." An interesting metaphor, since these huge concrete and asphalt developments bear little resemblance to desert flowers. The newspaper has referred to big box stores as a 'reinforcer of growth' in places like Oro Valley. With its population growing from about 29,700 in 2000 to about 40,000 in 2005, Oro Valley has become the target for no less than three new retail centers this year. As one Town Councilor said, "It's fair to say they are the biggest retail developments the town has ever seen. We are in a retail boom." In Oro Valley, many residents were retirees, but more young families and working professionals are moving to the town, and local officials must believe these people will want, and take, low wage Wal-Mart jobs. One local school official described a job at big box stores as "an awesome first step. Students learn how to interview, how to serve the public, responsibility and communication. Students are eager to fill those jobs." When the Wal-Mart in nearby Sahuarita opened, all it did was close the smaller, existing Wal-Mart. Job-wise, the manager of the Wal-Mart admitted that most of the 220 "new" jobs at the supercenter were part-time. The Daily Star noted that a study by the Institute for Policy Studies said most Wal-Mart workers make an average of $16,202 a year. Wal-Mart recently opened a Neighborhood Market in Oro Valley. The Vestar project is a huge 860,000 s.f. "power center" as planned by the Phoenix-based developer. The so-called Oro Valley Marketplace will be the largest retail development in Oro Valley. It will even have its own police substation right in the development, so the Oro Valley cops won't have to travel far to handle all the crime at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. A boycott of the Marketplace is the logical next step in a "if they build it, we won't come" campaign. They have formed the group Oro Valley First to carry on the campaign. After all, 42% of the voters said they did not want the Vestar plan. If those same voters stay away as consumers, the Wal-Mart marketplace will become even more controversial after it opens, than when it was first revealed. To help Oro Valley First , contact info@sprawl-busters.com.













 
 
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