Albuquerque, NM. Proposed Wal-Mart Runs Into Traffic Problems
A proposed 98,000 s.f. Wal-Mart in Albuquerque, New Mexico got stuck in traffic this week, as planners and regulators gave the project a thumbs down.
After an exhaustive hearing inside the Albuquerque Convention Center that went past midnight, the city's Environmental Planning Commission came down 5-2 against the plan, much to the pleasure of the estimated 400 people who turned out against the project.
According to the Albuquerque Journal newspaper, the EPC listened to 11 hours of testimony, and in the end followed the advice of city planners and recommended that the proposal be denied. Now the process turns political, as the developer is expected to appeal the decision to the City Council.
Historically, Albuquerque has had chronic battles over big box stores -- and usually the stores win. The city today is saturated with sprawl. Wal-Mart alone has 7 supercenters in the city, and three Neighborhood Markets. In all, Wal-Mart operates 14 stores within a 20 miles radius of Albuquerque.
All this big box development has irked local residents, who pressured the city to create a big box ordinance in 2007, which, among other things, requires a large store to have "full access" to a major 4 lane road, and meet design standards. But in this location, planners said that the building does not meet the full access requirement.
According to the Journal report, planners told the Commission that the Wal-Mart site proposed "does not have primary and full access" to a 4 land highway. In addition, city design standards require the store to be "pedestrian friendly," and there is no such thing as a pedestrian-friendly superstore.
Wal-Mart's engineer tried to argue that the store would include plazas, sidewalks, and a bike network. But the fact is, the building alone is larger than two acres. "People keep thinking this is a large supercenter," the engineer complained. In fact, a 98,000 s.f. store is very close to what Wal-Mart used to describe at its "99 prototype," which is just a 'smaller' superstore under 100,000 s.f. But it is still a superstore with a full grocery/deli component, along with the typical general merchandise found in the larger superstores. The store is more than twice the size of Wal-Mart's Neighborhood Markets along Sage Road, Golf Course Road, and Menaul Blvd -- all within a few miles of this Coors location.
A group called the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association vigorously opposes the supercenter, and hired an attorney to help them present their case. Attorney Timothy Flynn-O'Brien argued that a two acre, single-story flat-roofed building doesn't comply with city's design standards on this site which mandate a pedestrian-friendly, village-like development. According the Albuquerque Journal, Flynn-O'Brien charged that a Wal-Mart parking lot just isn't a community gathering place.
Students from the local Bosque School also testified against the plan. One student told the EPC, "As a result of this Wal-Mart, many small businesses would struggle and many would close."
Opponents are not done yet. They have to show up in force at the City Council meeting, to make sure that politics does not end up trumping zoning law.
What you can do: Sprawl-Busters first heard of this project on July 22, 2012, when a local resident sent this email:
"I live in a beautiful community called La Luz - adobe townhouses overlooking the Rio Grande, city, and Sandia Mountains, designed and built by world renowned architect Antoine Predock in 1975. Forty years of peaceful living with nature trails, coyotes, rabbits, etc. Now Wal-Mart wants to invade our territory. We are invited to a 'facilitated meeting' at the convention center on August 11th. They have already changed the date three times. I guess they want to wear us down."
The Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association (TRNA), along with more than 37 Neighborhood Associations and Home Owners Associations, retailers, parents, environmentalists, young people, recreationalists and ordinary citizens have set up a website to educate and activate city residents against the Wal-Mart. As the site states: "All are people who care about the communities in which they live and who want to sustain the future of their neighborhoods and this great city."
The TRNA says the purpose of their website "is to educate you on the facts. Too often the people at Wal-Mart tell elected officials and the public what 'the opposition' is saying. You need to hear it from us directly. We are not against development and certainly not jobs. The site is already in the process of building an 8,000 sq ft Credit Union and 240 multi-family residences with garages."
The TRNA says "We are against building a Big Box on that site because of: disregard of the city's approved Big Box Ordinances; Transgression of land use laws; increased traffic at the city's 2nd busiest intersection and 4th most dangerous for wrecks; proximity to a designated Bosque State Park (Wal-Mart back door just yards away); proximity to the Bosque School (adjacent to their property); crime rates for the two nearest Wal-Marts -- 1,127 serviced police calls in Y2011!; harm to small retailers across the street."
For more background on Wal-Mart's latest missteps in Albuquerque, or to support TRNA financially, go to: http://www.againstthewal-abq.com/index.php/facts