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2008-01-30
Lady’s Island, SC. Charming Downtown Vs. Wal-Mart

Lady's Island lies within the city limits of Beaufort, South Carolina. The city of Beaufort has a population of just over 12,000 people. The city is busy building a new municipal complex and some streetscape improvements. Beaufort boasts of its "Landmark Historic District," its "horse-drawn carriage" tours, its "unique, fully restored central business district filled with shops and restaurants all within walking distance of beautiful downtown inns and hotels." In short, it's a charming "low country" southern town just minutes from the beaches of Hilton Head. As the city says, "Beaufort has it all!" The area also has plenty of Wal-Marts -- which they don't mention. There are today three Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Beaufort, including a supercenter on Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort. So there is no market need for more Wal-Marts, but what consumers need versus what Wal-Mart needs, are entirely different calculations. According to the Beaufort Gazette, Wal-Marta is knocking on Lady's Island door with a very large proposal that won them a very small following in the community. The island is described by the newspaper as "the once-pristine island." About a week ago, Wal-Mart applied for a permit for a 195,000 s.f. store, plus two other retail stores, and a fast-food restaurant, all on 26 acres of wooded land. Wal-Mart, the company that likes to paint itself green these days, is proposing to clear cut this 26 acre parcel along Sea Island Parkway (Route 21) to pave it over for a superstore. The site is apparently close to a marsh and a creek. But the Gazette found one resident who understands the Wal-Mart philosophy. "It's just appropriate to have a store as close to you as possible," he said. "I think it could be fairly devastating to (our business)," said the owner of a local hardware store. "It will affect every business on Lady's Island. (Wal-Mart does) everything from hardware and gift shops to restaurants and carpet and bicycle shops. They affect everybody." The owner of a local tire shop said she was fine with Wal-Mart coming -- as long as they didn't sell tires. "I could match their prices, but it's such a large store, they buy in bigger quantities and get better prices (from the suppliers). They also sell low-quality tires for $35 to $40 at Wal-Mart, and I have no low-quality tires." The Gazette quoted one neighbor as saying, "Believe it or not, I'd rather have those trees there than low Wal-Mart prices. There's a lot more value to my kids in those trees than in Wal-Mart's prices."

What you can do: The City Council's Vision Statement says that "Beaufort is a community of choice, building on our history and working in harmony with our natural environment to provide diverse opportunities for the highest quality of life." The city has hired a consulting firm to deal with traffic on Route 21, the Boundary Street Corridor. The city also says it is concerned with "the preservation of open space, particularly Beaufort's waterfront viewshed," and has adopted an Open Space Master Plan. It's hard to see how a Wal-Mart on Route 21 with 12,000 or more car trips a day fits into that Master Plan. Ironically, the City Council has directed staff to identify "those economic sectors that will increase wage levels, provide training in desirable skills, and diversify the economic base of the City." That's certainly not a Wal-Mart. The city set up a Redevelopment Commission to assist "in the recruitment and retention of high quality industry, without compromising Beaufort's unique quality of life." The City's 5 member council seems to have drifted from its own vision in even contemplating another Wal-Mart supercenter. Readers are urged to call Beaufort Mayor Bill Rauch at (843)524-1234. Rauch used to be a press secretary for former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Rauch has been Mayor since 1999, and only moved to Beaufort in 1988. Tell Mayor Rauch: "Lady's Island does not need another Wal-Mart superstore. The one on Robert Smalls Parkway is bad enough. You can't try to woo tourists with talk of your landmark historic downtown, and then clog Route 21 up with traffic and 24/7 superstores. You don't have to say yes to a store that big. It doesn't fit into your Master Plan or your Open Space Plan. This is not a form of economic development, because you already have a Wal-Mart supercenter. This is just saturation, and more low wage jobs. Protect what's unique about Lady's Island, and stay away from typical roadsite sprawl. Vote against the Wal-Mart permit."










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

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