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2008-09-28
Redding, CA. City Oks Wal-Mart Expansion After 5 Year Citizen Delay

Anti-Wal-Mart activists have cost Wal-Mart hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales at their store in Redding, California. On June 29, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had suffered a setback in their plans to build a 220,700 s.f. superstore in Redding, California. A Shasta County Superior Court judge overturned a 2003 city permit letting Wal-Mart nearly double the size of its store, converting it from a discount store into a supercenter. The court ruled that the city must draft an environmental impact report (EIR)dealing with the noise and traffic that will be caused by the significantly larger facility. The EIR also must include a study showing whether Redding can absorb another large discount grocer without losing nearby supermarkets and other businesses. The proposed supercenter, according to the Record Searchlight, would add 92,700 s.f. to the existing Wal-Mart on Dana Drive. Residents complained that the store expansion would push the building's loading docks to within 25 feet of existing duplex homes in the area. Redding residents took Wal-Mart to court in , 2004 to order more environmental review for the Supercenter, which won narrow City Council approval. Opponents "have presented substantial evidence ... that the Wal-Mart Supercenter may cause economic blight in the city," Superior Court Judge James Ruggiero wrote in his June, 2004 order. The plaintiffs claim that judges in five other counties have ordered similar economic impact studies to be conducted, including Kern and Fresno counties. "The rule of thumb seems to be, when a Wal-Mart Supercenter opens, two supermarkets and other stores close," the resident's attorney told the newspaper. The judge denied opponents' claims that the Wal-Mart approval violated the city's general plan or the county's air quality requirements. The court ruling threw off Wal-Mart's timetable for approval, and requires the city to conduct further studies. This week, the Record Searchlight newspaper reports that Wal-Mart finally got its building permit after a five year delay. As far as the court's ruling requiring a study on the supercenter's impact on Redding's retail market -- the Searchlight says that the study, conducted in 2006, concluded that Redding's retail industry was "healthy enough" to survive Wal-Mart's super expansion. But the newspaper notes: "Of course, that analysis was made in 2006, when retail sales were relatively booming. Times today aren't so rosy. Redding's sales tax haul in the second quarter (April through June) of 2008 was down 7.4% from the same three months a year ago. Would a similar economic study done today have the same conclusion?"

What you can do: Sprawl-Busters warned in 2004 that if the studies ordered by the judge were not independently performed, the results will provide little comfort to the residents. It is simply unacceptable to put loading docks 25 feet from existing homes. The solution was simple: dramatically downsize the store. The original Wal-Mart in Redding is larger than two football fields. Wal-Mart said recently that it is focusing on supercenters around 90,000 s.f. size, so the company could have ended the years of controversy by offering to reconfigure its existing store to sell groceries, and leave the neighbors unchanged. This expansion proposal is clearly for the convenience of the company only, and to the detriment of everyone else who lives near the project. Four years ago Sprawl-Busters predicted that any economic impact study in Redding would likely show that existing grocery stores will lose sales to Wal-Mart, but no real economic growth will come to Redding. Building more grocery stores in Redding will not make people in town any hungrier. Readers are urged to email Redding Mayor Mary Leas Stegall at mayor@ci.redding.ca.us, with the following message: "Dear Mayor Stegall, Citizens in Redding who held up Wal-Mart's expansion for 5 years have every reason to be proud of their endurance against such a well-heeled opponent, and the City Council. As the general partner in a firm that owns and leases commercial real estate in Fresno, you know the impact that Wal-Mart has had in California -- especially on the grocery industry. This superstore expansion adds no added value to Redding economically, because most of its 'new' sales will come from existing grocery stores in the area. Ironically, Wal-Mart recently announced that they are focusing new supercenter projects on the 90,000 s.f. range. These past 5 years of turmoil in Redding could have been avoided with a more flexible company. Now you have an opportunity to lead growth, rather than follow it. You can propose a 90,000 s.f. cap on the size of new retail buildings, to prevent Redding from having to go through such a contentious battle again. Is Redding ready?"










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

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