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2008-08-27
Weirton, WV. Mayor Makes Private Deal to Welcome Wal-Mart

The good people of Weirton, West Virginia already have one Wal-Mart. Store #1948 is located on Three Springs Drive Road in this small community of less than 19,000 people. If that discount store is not enough, residents of Weirton have a larger Wal-Mart supercenter less than 7 miles away in Steubenville, Ohio. Located in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, the city of Weirton is "nestled among the hills of the Ohio River Valley." Weirton lies in an area commonly referred to as the Tri-State area, and is in close proximity to many locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Famous for the Weirton Steel Company, the 8th largest integrated steel producer in the nation, Weirton says its "broad ethnic background and cultural heritage make for a very unique and special place to live and visit." Created in 1947, Weirton is the only city in the United States that sits in one state while its borders touch two other states. But its not the only city that will have more than its share of Wal-Mart sprawl. In Weirton, the citizens are the last ones to know about land use projects. They leave all that up to their city leaders. According to the Weirton Daily Times, the Mayor and Wal-Mart have been doing a little business in private. The newspaper reports this week that Weirton is going to have "an even bigger Wal-Mart to visit" within the next few years. The Mayor announced that a deal has been reached between Wal-Mart and ArcelorMittal Steel for the land where the proposed Super Wal-Mart will be built. "They closed (Monday) afternoon (August 25th)," Mayor Mark Harris said of the deal. Wal-Mart representatives finished deals with some private property owners whose land also is included in the parcels for the project. According to Wal-Mart the actual closing of the land deals won't happen until the end of the month. "We are very excited to be moving forward with the construction of our new supercenter and appreciate the support from the mayor, community and state officials throughout this process," a Wal-Mart spokesman said. The store, which will be 176,000 s.f., will be located on space that was formerly the General Office building for ArcelorMittal Steel. Wal-Mart also has to get a right-of-way agreement, which ArcelorMittal will give to the city. The Mayor says the superstore could be open by Christmas 2009. "By Friday (August 29th), the whole deal will be closed," Mayor Harris boasted. "Wal-Mart is coming."

What you can do: And Wal-Mart is also going. The Mayor forgot to mention what he plans to do with the Wal-Mart which will close on Three Springs Drive Road. Wal-Mart already has three dead stores in West Virginia, and the Weirton store will make four. The Weirton superstore is a "trading down" story, about a small town that converted good paying steel jobs into low-paying discount stores. This new superstore brings no added value to Weirton. There will be no new jobs, no new revenues -- because most of the economic activity will simply be transferred from the existing Wal-Mart store. It really is of little consequence when Wal-Mart announces that it has finished a land deal. What really matters is the zoning permit process, which in Weirton either does not exist, or the Mayor considers it something that is a done deal involving only a few people like himself. Taxpayers in Weirton ought to be reviewing such deals, and opposing any effort to downzone from industrial land to commercial. Readers are urged to email Weirton Mayor Mark Harris at mayor@cityofweirton.com with the following message: "Dear Mayor Weirton, What are you going to do with your dead Wal-Mart, now that you have announced the new superstore deal with the same company? The new superstore will not bring you more jobs or revenues, because it will cause the old store to close, and hurt some local grocery stores which will not be able to survive on your small population base. This is not progress for Weirton -- it's just more sprawl. All that will increase is your crime and traffic. Before you approve this project, you might want to consider writing a developer's agreement that puts money into escrow to cover the cost of tearing down the "old" Wal-Mart discount store if it remains empty for 12 consecutive months. Don't let your taxpayers get burdened down with an eyesore that may never be sold. You ushered in this wasteful, unnecessary store. You made the decision that no one could possibly drive the 7 miles to Steubenville to shop at the superstore there -- so you should lead the way in protecting your residents from another Wal-Mart 'dark store.' You may also want to begin planning on how to reuse the old building that your local grocery store will have to abandon within a year after your new Wal-Mart opens. You say that Weirton is a 'unique and special place.' But having a superstore and a dead Wal-Mart is neither unique, nor special. You were better off making steel than making more Wal-Marts."










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

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