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2007-09-13
Concord, CA. Developer Self-Destructs Wal-Mart Project--For Now

On April 24, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a Wal-Mart supercenter project in Concord, California, called the Jones Ranch Project, was floundering. Concord is 29 miles east of San Francisco, has roughly 130,000 residents. It's the largest city in Contra Costa County. The City Council in March argued that the Environmental Impact Report did not address transportation and circulation, parking, public safety, solid waste generation, storm water and urban decay. The Mayor of Concord, Mark Peterson, voted for Wal-Mart, but he was outnumbered by 3 councilors against the plan. The city's planning staff prepared a resolution with findings of fact to support a rejection of the EIR, recommending the Council vote formally to deny the project. Nearly five months of controversy later, the developer has fallen on his own sword. That makes three projects that Wal-Mart has bungled in Contra Costa County: Antioch, Hercules, and now Concord. The developer, Winton Jones Development, submitted the 28-acre Jones Ranch shopping center on Arnold Industrial Way, which included a Wal-Mart and a Lowe's. Jones promised that the project would create 650 new jobs -- a gross figure, not a net figure. Two days ago, Jones sent a letter to City Hall which read, "Winton Jones Development Co. respectfully withdraws its application without prejudice." Jones is leaving the door wide open to apply again. The Jones withdrawal was a dramatic last minute bail out, because the City Council was slated to discuss the project the same evening. Instead of discussing the project, the City Council simply read the letter out loud to the crowded hearing room, and moved on to the next item on their agenda. The citizen's group that had organized against the store, No More on 4, was prepared to fight the retailer in court. "The quality of life impacts we feel in North Concord need to be considered first, and these kinds of big-box discount stores do not have a track record of serving communities well," said Gregg Davidson, chairman of the group, according to the Contra Costa Times. "We are pleased that the Jones Family had the courage to end this controversy by withdrawing the current Wal-Mart project from consideration."

What you can do: This project ain't over until the Fat Company sings. Last March, City Councilors complained that the superstore and building supply store would create "incredible" traffic. The Council voted against the plan at the time because of inadequate impact studies. One councilor said this week she would be willing to consider the project if the Wal-Mart was removed. "I don't want to slam Wal-Mart, but we've worked very hard to improve the image of the city," she said. "I don't want people to think 'Wal-Mart' when they think of Concord." Back in March, Mayor Mark Peterson told the Times, "Does Wal-Mart do things we don't like? Yeah, sure, but so do stockbrokers. So do a lot of companies, but I'm not supposed to be making the decision here tonight on a social basis. This is a land use decision." Based on land use issues, this project can be denied regardless of whose logo is on the building. Environmental and traffic concerns are land use decisions. Readers are urged to call Mayor Mark Peterson at (925) 671-3158 and members of the Concord Council. The Mayor says he wants to make Concord "a premier business community," yet he keeps voting for Wal-Mart, which brings no added value economically to Concord. The Council and Mayor can be emailed at: citycouncil@ci.concord.ca.us. Tell the Mayor and City Council, "Now that Jones Development has withdrawn, its time to enact a cap on the size of retail buildings in Concord, as other communities in Contra Costa County have done. With a cap on size, you don't have to leave the door open for big box retailers, which produce no new jobs, and no new sales taxes. It all comes from existing businesses or other big box stores. Aim higher than Wal-Mart."










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

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