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2009-08-04
Marion, NC. Wal-Mart Displaces 40 Families from Mobile Home Park

America has plenty of homeless people. We don't have to create more. There are Blue Ridge Mobile Home Parks in Louisiana, Virginia, New York and Missouri, but the one in Marion, North Carolina is now history. The residents didn't just die off -- they were pushed off -- to make room for another Wal-Mart supercenter. A developer from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, WRS, Inc, has proposed a 60 acre shopping center that happened to be some other peoples' home. The land is located on Sugar Hill Road in Marion, but it's leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the people who had to give up their home to make way for another Wal-Mart store. There is no shortage of Wal-Mart superstores in the Marion trade area. Four Wal-Marts are located within 25 miles of Marion, including an existing Wal-Mart store on Route 70 West in Marion itself. This existing store will be shut down as soon as the superstore opens. As of today, WRS still does not control the land, but the city Manager of Marion told the McDowell News that the sale will happen, and the Wal-Mart will be constructed on Sugar Hill Road. "I have not been notified that there is a problem and as far as I know the sale is still going through," said a spokesman for Diversified Asset Development, the landowner. "We all are waiting on Wal-Mart to say 'close.' As per a closing date, we are at their mercy and have nothing in stone." But what is in stone is that 40 families are being displaced for this unnecessary superstore. Instead of driving 4 miles to the nearest superstore, Marion officials are forcing 40 families to leave their homes. The residents in the Blue Ridge Mobile Home Park received eviction notices giving them six months to move out. All the mobile homes are supposed to be gone by August 21, 2009. There are currently only three families left that have not moved their mobile home. Last March, a special fund was set up at the Fifth Third Bank to help the 40 families who were displaced by this superstore. One of the organizers told the McDowell News that $7,594 has been raised, and several weeks ago, the families of Blue Ridge Mobile Home Park were handed a check on their way out of town. A few families were never tracked down for their check. "We're trying to locate them," the fund organizer said, adding, "these folks may not understand English."

What you can do: But they do understand corporate power. This is not the first time, and it will not be the last time, that low income families have been bulldozed out of their homes by a big box developer. Wal-Mart has done it a number of times, as has Home Depot and others. In a few instances, the mobile home park owners have fought back and won. But some of the Blue Ridge homeowners didn't stand a fighting chance -- not even speaking the language. So they are now almost gone, to make way for the "Shoppes at Marion." It's one of those faux olde time names designed to sound quaint and village-like. In early June, WRS Inc. announced on its web site that the new shopping center would have a Wal-Mart Supercenter as the anchor. The center will be called Shoppes at Marion. WRS says it specializes in "Wal-Mart anchored centers." Just to make sure this project successfully displaced these poor families, the North Carolina Rural Center gave the city of Marion a $1 million economic infrastructure grant to help pay to bring city water and sewer lines along Sugar Hill Road toward Interstate 40, to serve Shoppes at Marion. The full cost to extend water and sewer to the site is $2 million. The mission of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center is to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The center serves the state's 85 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. Created in 1987, the Rural Center conducts research into rural issues; advocates for policy and program innovations; and builds the productive capacity of rural leaders, entrepreneurs and community organizations. The center is a private, non-profit organization, and receives both public and private sources. It's money is now providing welfare to the world's richest retailer, as is pushes North Carolina poor folks out of their homes. The McDowell County Commissioners also played a role in displacing these families. The county agreed to buy a small tract of land along Sugar Hill Road from the state Department of Transportation. The county will then sell it do the developer. "We have a design in place," boasted Marion's city manager. "They've got big plans for this property," he said. Readers are urged to email Marion's Mayor, A Everette Clark at eclark@marionnc.org with the following message: "Dear Mayor Clark, you say that 'In Marion, we enjoy a good quality of life, safe streets and neighborhoods, good recreational amenities, and ample shopping opportunities.' Your city's motto is 'Where Main Street meets the Mountains.' You're going to have to change that motto to: 'Where Main Street meets the Big Box.' If you allow Wal-Mart to open a superstore in Marion, you're going to end up with an empty Wal-Mart on Route 70 West. The jobs at the new Wal-Mart will come mostly from the old Wal-Mart. Yet you claim that 'This development has the potential to create hundreds of jobs.' That is simply wrong. The net job gain will be negligible after you subtract the jobs killed at stores like Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Ingles and J's Discount. To make matters worse, you evicted 40 low-income families from their homes -- some of them not even English-speaking, to pave the way for this project. On top of that, the Rural Center is giving the developer a $1 million to write down the cost of water and sewer to the site. Here are your alternatives: Wal-Mart could have found another site that did not have homes on it. Wal-Mart could have found a site that already had water and sewer. Wal-Mart could have paid for a site to bring water and sewer to it. Wal-Mart could simply have taken its existing store and converted it into a supercenter without removing anyone from their home. And where was Wal-Mart's vaunted philanthropy when the 40 families needed it? Why didn't Wal-Mart pay to move these people and find them a new home? Instead, private citizens scraped together a few thousand bucks as a consolation prize to the families leaving your city. It's hard to say who is more to blame for driving these families out for no reason: the city, the county, or Wal-Mart. But the families should have been protected from this frivolous, unnecessary proposal. When this project comes before your City Council, ask Wal-Mart what they are going to do with their existing store. Because for a city with 5,144 people -- you don't need two Wal-Marts -- and the smaller one will close the day the superstore opens. You can use the old store to house homeless families displaced by sprawl."










 
 
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