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2007-09-04
Nashua, NH. Wal-Mart Developer Finally Gets Day In Court

A Wal-Mart developer faced off in court against city officials in Nashua, New Hampshire just before the Labor Day weekend began on September 1st. The city denied Wal-Mart's supercenter proposal, so the giant retailer did what it often does -- went to court -- this time in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire Superior Court. This case has lingered on for a year and eight months, but on September 1st, lawyers for the developer, AS-VR Realty, finally got their chance to assert that the Nashua Planning Board made a mistake in January of 2006 when they ruled that Wal-Mart could not tear down a Building 19 on Amherst St. and build a 147,000-s.f. Wal-Mart superstore. The developer claims that two of the planning board members politicized the review process. They claim that Planning board member Steve Dookran failed to maintain objectivity; tried to get traffic information from outside sources after the board finished deliberating; and improperly raised new concerns after the time period for doing so had passed, among other issues. The developer says Dookran made several informational requests regarding the retailer's traffic plan very late in the review process. The developer says that Dookran approached a member of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and a city subordinate -- after the Planning Board had stopped accepting new material. Wal-Mart's traffic consultant did respond to Dookran's questions, but board members never reviewed them, because the public hearing had closed. According to the Nashua Telegraph, the developer argues that because the Planning Board did not consider their traffic responses, or allow them a response, the developer did not have their due process. The developer also claims that a second Planning Board member, Mike Lowe, was biased against the project and gave information to a leader of the Pennichuck Watershed Council, a group opposed to Wal-Mart's environmental impact. The developer produced an email from the environmental group saying they had spoken to Lowe in confidence about the number of zoning board members needed to reject the project. Lowe eventually stepped down from the case after three hearings. The city responded that if the developer felt that Lowe's stepping down tainted the board, the developer should have asked for the review to start over -- which they did not.

What you can do: Sprawl-Busters reported on January 20, 2006 that the Nashua Planning Board voted 4-3 against this superstore. After an hour and a half of discussion, the Planning Board sent Wal-Mart packing, to the sustained applause of more than 100 area opponents. Traffic was the key issue in Nashua. The Planning Board members challenged the developer's traffic study. According to the Nashua Telegraph, one Board member said Wal-Mart's $2 million plan to widen a street was inconsistent with the city's master plan for the road. The councilman who made the motion to reject the project complained that the traffic generated by the superstore would be intolerable. Wal-Mart's lawyer tried to delay the proceedings, arguing that Wal-Mart needed more time to address traffic concerns raised by the Planning Board. "This is has been a long road to get here,'' Wal-Mart's lawyer told the Board, "and we don't see any reason to rush this issue.'' But Jed Callen, a lawyer for Citizens Action of Southern New Hampshire, which has opposed the project since the beginning, said, "The process can go on literally indefinitely, and that is not fair to the public who has to attend meeting after meeting. It is a travesty to prolong this." This case now is expected to be decided in a matter of weeks.










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

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