Cibolo, TX. Residents Want a "Dry" Wal-Mart
At a 2010 zoning hearing in Cibolo, Texas, one resident apparently showed up to express concern about the rezoning of land along Borgfield Road from Industrial, to Commercial 3---a change which opened the door to a Wal-Mart superstore on 22 acres of land hard by a school and a church.
Now, three years later, almost everyone in this city of roughly 18,000 people is up in arms about this quietly-made zoning change. Cibolo, the "City of Choice," has a very big choice facing it now: When does the superstore sprawl stop?
Cibolo has no need for its own Wal-Mart superstore. This small city is surrounded by Wal-Marts. There are a total of 11 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of Cibolo--of which 10 are superstores.
If Cibolo residents are addicted to cheap Chinese imports, there is already a Wal-Mart superstore less than 5 miles away in Schertz, Texas, and 7 miles away in Converse, Texas. There are also no less than 13 Wal-Mart supercenters in San Antonio as close as 9 miles away. So Cibolo is saturated with big box stores, and this project cannot be justified by existing market need. Another Wal-Mart will get all of its sales captured from existing merchants, and thus represents no new jobs or tax revenues.
In early July, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve Wal-Mart's preliminary plans. Opponents of the Cibolo Wal-Mart contacted Sprawl-Busters at the end of June. One resident of Cibolo sent this plea for help on July 3rd:
"There is a group of citizens opposing Wal-Mart in our small community. The City Council completely blind-sided the community and flat out lied to us. While we don't mind a Wal-Mart coming into our city limits, the location they chose is the issue. They are trying to build a 183,000 ft Super Store across the street from an elementary school and church. The street has 2 lanes and Wal-Mart intends to widen it to 5."
A group called "Citizens for Cibolo" quickly formed, and filed petitions seeking passage of separate city ordinances that would bar the sale of alcohol and firearms within 300 feet of a church or school. But according to the City's Mayor, even if the ordinance passes, Wal-Mart will be grandfathered because its plat has already received initial approval.
"We prefer to have our children safe rather than promote the profit of Walmart through the sale of those items," a spokesman for the Citizens for Cibolo told the San Antonio Express-News. The proposed ordinances could be adopted by the City Council, but if the Council fails to adopt the measures, they will appear on the Cibolo ballot in November. A similar ordinance was just adopted in Tucson, Arizona to keep a Wal-Mart from selling alcohol.
In July, the Cibolo City Council tabled a proposal to ban alcohol sales within 300 feet of a school, church or hospital. One City Councilor who proposed the ban said "this issue will come up again and again...let's just get it addressed once and for all." But the Council tabled the motion for a later date.
The loss of liquor sales, even if it were applicable to the proposed Wal-Mart project, is not likely to stop the store from opening. Things like alcohol sales, and 24/7 operations do have an impact on Wal-Mart's profitability, but are unlikely to kill the project. No overnight hours would have a greater impact financially---but would not likely deter Wal-Mart, which is currently seeking to buy the land from a private party.
What you can do: In response to residents who complained that the Wal-Mart vote caught them by surprise, the City Manager admitted to the Express-News, "The city doesn't have a policy of going out and indicating to the public whatever development is coming to town." Therein lies the problem. Cibolo desperately needs more transparency in its development plans. City officials apparently prefer the element of surprise.
Residents have said publicly that if Wal-Mart's final plat is approved, they will try to take legal action to block it. So this project may be heading to a courtroom, not to a ribbon-cutting anytime soon. "If Wal-Mart doesn't move of their own volition, one way or another we will end up in court," one resident told the newspaper.
Readers are urged to email a comment for the Cibolo City Council at: www.cibolotx.gov/CommunityVoice with the following message:
"Do not vote to approve Wal-Mart's final plat. Site traffic concerns can be the reason to prevent the addition of this huge superstore. It is way out of scale given local road conditions. Also, there is absolutely no market need for this project in the first place. It makes no sense to burden the public with more traffic gridlock and danger to public safety given the saturation of superstores in the Cibolo trade area."