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2008-08-15
Chandler, AZ. Developer Returns to Boomburg With Same Old Generic Wal-Mart

It's back to the future in Chandler, Arizona, where a repeat developer keeps submitting the same old Wal-Mart plan that most residents don't want. On March 13, 2005, Sprawl-Busters reported that the residents of Chandler, Arizona have grown used to Wal-Mart's on-again, off-again superstore plans. Since 2003, Wal-Mart has pulled out of two Chandler projects, after a developer had spent months working on the project. In the early spring of 2005, Wal-Mart pulled out of the so-called "Riggs Gateway" project. At the time, Wal-Mart told The Arizona Republic, "We're not going to move forward to build a store at that particular location. We are reassessing our options to determine what is in the best interests of our customers." The newspaper described Chandler as a city "beleaguered by announcements of Wal-Mart sites, objections from neighbors, and flurries of public relations campaigns." Chandler certainly does not need more Wal-Marts. There are three Wal-Marts already open. In each case, local residents fought doggedly to stop the stores. The Riggs Gateway project was offered by a developer called Diversified Partners. This week, three years and four months after their withdrawal from Riggs, Diversified is back again with a "secret" tenant they won't reveal -- but local folks say its just a Wal-Mart revisited. The Chandler City Council did not even have to hear the "W" word before voting unanimously to send the most recent plans for the Riggs Gateway shopping center back to the Planning and Zoning Commission, where it will be discussed on September 17th. The city council rebuffed the P&Z Commission, which also voted unanimously, 5-0, to support the Diversified plan for the Riggs Gateway. The developers' lawyer warned the city council that more delays could injure the project, because the unnamed tenant "demanded" zoning approval before they would commit to the property. Neighbors opposed to the Wal-Mart claim that they found out the proposed store was a Wal-Mart not from the developer, but from a real estate agent. After their 2005 victory, the neighbors said they were promised that the next proposal for the Riggs site would not be another big box. But Diversified submitted a new plan with only minor shrinkage in the store size. The opponents say that Diversified has been hiding its true plans, and that the Wal-Mart proposed for this site will only be a slightly smaller version of the one they killed three years ago. As usual, Wal-Mart publicly says it has no plans at this time for a store at Riggs Cateway. But opponents are not fooled. According to the Arizona Republic, they are ready to start a referendum petition if Diversified keeps hiding its anchor tenant, and if the council votes to allow in a Wal -- Mart. "I don't think they want that right now, especially since this is an election year," one opponent said. Chandler has a big box ordinance that requires the developer to name its tenants if they are larger than 150,000 s.f. The Diversified plan comes in at 131,000 s.f. Chandler City Councilman Bob Caccamo told the Arizona Republic, "We were assured it was going to be an upscale retail center and it's not. It looks like the big, bland generic shopping center with tons of parking in the front and buildings set way back that were built here 20 years ago."

What you can do: In March of 2007, Chandler, under the leadership of its Mayor Boyd Dunn, produced a report called "Next Twenty: A New, Progressive Agenda For Chander." The report charts the astounding growth of Chandler over the past twenty years, from a community of 90,000 people in 1990, to more than 247,000 people today. Chandler turned into a "Boomburb" -- a suburb growing at an incredibly rapid speed. This report is probably the most coherent argument against the continuation of suburban sprawl patterns of development. Next Twenty notes that "Most economic activity is being created by new,homegrown businesses" in Chandler -- not by big box national chains. The task facing Chandler is to create "a unique economic base for a Boomburb while protecting -- and taking advantage of -- its distinctive historical character and downtown." The consultants who prepared this vision statement for Chandler advised that it was time for the city "to take a proactive approach to the post-Boomburb era. With limited land resources, a changing economic base -- and a changing role in the Valley of the Sun metropolis -- Chandler has the opportunity to "set the pace" for maturing Boomburbs all over the country." Readers are urged to email Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn at boyd.dunn@chandleraz.gov with the following message: "Mayor Dunn, Chandler has a limited land supply that is rapidly decreasing. At the same time, you have 20 Wal-Marts within 15 miles of Chandler, including a dozen supercenters. It's time to move beyond the sprawl age, and ensure that Boomburg does not become Sprawlburg. As you implement the Next Twenty report, remember the 20 Wal-Marts you already have, and the foolishness of throwing away land at the Riggs Gateway for a Wal-Mart. If you want to keep your downtown vital, make Chandler connected, keep pedestrians at the center of planning -- then a big box store makes no sense, and the Diversified plan should be rejected once and for all. Chandler does have a chance to "set the pace" for Boomburgs everywhere -- but not by adding more big box sprawl. Wal-Mart is not part of the "new,progressive agenda" for Chandler. It destroys city character, kills smaller merchants, and does nothing but kick up the crime and traffic counts."











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

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