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2010-01-06
Antioch, CA. Three Years After Defeat, Wal-Mart Tries Again

On November 6, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had proposed to expand its store in Antioch, California, by 72,980 s.f. to create a 203,103 s.f. supercenter on Lone Tree Way. More than three years later, that expansion has not been approved. On February 14, 2007, the Antioch City Council voted to reject the expansion plan. Then-Mayor Donald Freitas and two Council members voted against Wal-Mart, and two councilors voted in support. "Certainly, we're disappointed," a Wal-Mart's spokesman told the Contra Costa Times in 2007. "We hoped the Council would have recognized the outpouring of support for this project from the community, and the more than 250 jobs it would have created." During debate on the project, Wal-Mart had agreed to slightly reduce the square footage by 8,000 s.f. to meet size restrictions at their current location. To rally their supporters, Wal-Mart hosted a "Valentine's reception" an hour before the city council vote. "It is critical that the council knows Antioch residents support this store," the company said in a flier that was handed out to Wal-Mart shoppers at their existing store. "Please attend the meeting and show your love for Wal-Mart and your support for the proposed Supercenter." To show its love for its customers, Wal-Mart gave its people beverages and appetizers. Wal-Mart said the event was a chance for Wal-Mart supporters to come together. "People have taken time out of their personal lives to support us," the company said. "This is a chance to do something for them and offer them some refreshments before the meeting, which is likely to take some time." The Wal-Mart spokesman said such receptions are common practice for the retail giant. But Antioch residents opposed to the Wal-Mart Supercenter said the proposal would increase traffic, crime and noise. When one Councilman heard of Wal-Mart pre-vote "reception," he told the newspaper it left him "at a loss for words." "It seems as though they want to do just about anything to move this project along," he said. "They obviously want to pack City Hall with supporters." City officials were concerned that Wal-Mart's expansion violates size limits in Williamson Ranch Plaza. Attorneys for the project's opponents say Wal-Mart has used flawed mathematics in calculating the total square footage of the project. When the votes were counted, Wal-Mart supporters went home empty-handed, but with a full stomach. This week, nearly three years after losing their City Council vote, Wal-Mart is back before Antioch officials. Now they want to enlarge their existing store by 33,575 s.f. to 175,073 s.f. The retailer has also apparently dropped its demand that the store remain open 24/7, which neighbors opposed. The existing Wal-Mart discount store opens at 8 am and closes at 10 pm. The Antioch Planning Commission will hear the proposal on January 6th, but the comment period remains open until February 1st. The Commission is expected to make their decision by the end of March. If Wal-Mart does not like the Commission's decision, the company can appeal to the City Council. "We've been working very closely with the city and we're still early in the process, but we'll be moving forward to better serve our customers in the area," a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Contra Costa Times. "We feel like this will be a great project for the community."

What you can do: As usual, the local Chamber of Commerce has abandoned its dues-paying small businesses, and jumped into the tank with the national chain store. The Chamber says that now that the project has been scaled back, there are no reasons to deny it. But that view is not necessarily shared at the City Council level. City Councilman Reggie Moore, who voted against the expansion in 2007, told the Times, "I think we need to be careful as we approve use permits, that we're very cognizant of existing businesses. I feel a strong allegiance to our current businesses." Moore said he was concerned about the "economic issues" raised by the Wal-Mart expansion into groceries. According to a national study produced by Retail Forward, the construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter can be expected to force two existing grocery stores in the area to shut down. The net job impact on the Antioch trade area will be negligible, if not negative, because this project does not add any new jobs to the discount side of the Wal-Mart, only "new" grocery jobs. Those jobs, however, will be transferred from existing grocers in Antioch who will lose business as the trade area is saturated with food stores. Readers are urged to email Antioch Mayor James D. Davis at jd4antioch@aol.com with the following message: "Dear Mayor Davis, The current Wal-Mart in Antioch is around 141,000 s.f. At that size, its big enough -- as is -- to be a supercenter. In fact, Wal-Mart is submitting superstore plans today at half the size of your current Wal-Mart. The Planning Commission and City Council should ask Wal-Mart why they are not pursuing an 'in-box conversion,' where they simply reformat their existing store, without having to add any new square footage. No EIR would be needed, no permits, just interior changes. As a banker, you know how many smaller businesses have been affected by these national chain stores, and you know that Wal-Mart's proceeds do not remain locally banked. As a former Antioch Police Commissioner, you know the significant crime problem that is plaguing the Wal-Mart company. I urge you, vote down the expansion, and tell Wal-Mart to use their existing store on Lone Tree Way by reformatting it. Either way, expansion or conversion -- this project will not mean jobs or revenues for Antioch -- and that's important to remember before you vote to add to the sprawl your city already has."










 
 
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