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2007-06-27
Avondale, AZ. Wal-Mart Design Rejected As “Bowl of Oatmeal”

On September 14, 2005, Sprawl-Busters reported that officials in the city of Avondale, Arizona told residents that Wal-Mart was withdrawing its plans for a controversial supercenter. "The applicant for Avondale Town Center has withdrawn its application for rezoning and site plan approval for the property located on the northwest corner of Van Buren Street and Avondale Boulevard," the city announced. Wal-Mart was gone -- but not for good. On November 23, 2006, residents reported that Wal-Mart had returned to Avondale with a new proposal, this time 1 mile from their original location, but away from Avondale's dream "city entry" corridor. The new site is 2 miles from an existing Supercenter. This time, the property Wal-Mart wants is zoned for commercial, C-2, which allows for virtually any type of retail, including Wal-Mart, said Avondale's city manager. The city says its oversight is limited to such things as traffic flow, design of the building, lighting and landscaping. "Those are the things they (the City Council) are limited to looking at. They can't deny the use itself, the city manager said. "I think it is important that people understand that because they may have expectations that the council can control things that they have no control over." Yesterday, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported that city officials were not pleased with the designs Wal-Mart submitted. "First, I would like to say I'm disappointed," said Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers. "Art deco style isn't my cup of tea." Councilman Ken Weise was quoted as saying, "I think what we gave direction to them was, don't bring us garbage. Don't waste our time. Don't bring us something that will not enhance the entrance to Avondale Boulevard. And the first effort was exactly that. A Wal-Mart is a Wal-Mart. It's a big box. It doesn't matter how much you decorate it. That's what it is." Because Wal-Mart already has a store in Avondale, Weise said he doesn't think the company needs another store. But council members said they can't refuse Wal-Mart permission to build the store because of Proposition 207, passed by Arizona voters in 2006, which allows property owners to sue a governmental entity for compensation if their land loses value because of a land-use change. So city officials asked Wal-Mart to pattern the look of their store on one they saw in Mesa, Arizona. Weise noted, "the store they have proposed for us on Avondale Boulevard is a disappointment and a failure." Councilwoman Betty Lynch told Wal-Mart, "It's not the vision we have for Avondale Boulevard. This is the gateway to our city. There's no color. It's like a bowl of oatmeal, all one color. Throw in some raisins, throw in some cranberry. Do something with it," she suggested. "In my opinion," Councilman Jason Earp said, "it's just a step above what we have, which is ugly, and Wal-Mart knows our residents don't want a Wal-Mart."

What you can do: This argument over the"skin" of the store is truly superficial. City officials in Avondale would do well to spend city funds on good legal advice on the subject of Proposition 207, and their own zoning powers. The city suggests that they cannot refuse Wal-Mart, because the landowner will sue them for loss of value "because of a land-use change." No landowner has the right to jeopardize the public health, safety and welfare simply to maximize the value of their land by overbuilding on a parcel. If the city can demonstrate that this project will overburden the roadways, or degrade traffic flow, or if they can show it is not consistent with land use goals set for the gateway to the community, they can reject this store. Rather than argue about Art Deco style, they should get below the surface and really take a closer look at their own police powers, and stop telling the public that there is nothing they can do. Readers are urged to email Mayor Rogers at: emailcitycouncil@avondale.org, or by phone: 623-333-1900. Leave this message for the Mayor, "We don't want Mesa's Wal-Mart in Avondale. Stop this project based on its scale, its inappropriateness for a gateway, and its traffic. There's more to object to in this project than just its color."










 
 
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