Rock Hill, SC. Wal-Mart Wants Rezoning To Build In Neighbor's Back Yards
If you live in Rock Hill, South Carolina (pop. 68,094), you have no less than 8 Wal-Mart stores to shop at within 20 miles---including two Wal-Mart supercenters within Rock Hill city limits on Dave Lyle Boulevard, and Old York Road.
So there's absolutely no need for Wal-Mart's latest project: to rezone 14 acres of land just outside the city, and annex it into Rock Hill to construct a 41,000 s.f. Naighborhood Market.
There is only one purpose for this store: to steal market share from existing grocery stores in Rock Hill. There are plenty of grocery stores to steal from near the proposed site: Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Dink's, and Earth Fare.
Wal-Mart tells the Charlotte Observer that its new grocery store will "create" 90 jobs, "most" of which will be full time. The newspaper did not ask Wal-Mart how many of those new jobs would be "captured" from existing grocers---but if any one of its competitors closes down, the net job change would be zero or negative.
This week Rock Hill's Planning Commission waded through testimony from a crowd estimated at 60 people. Of all those in attendance, only 2 people spoke in favor of the project. Homeowners expressed their concerns over issues like traffic and falling property values. Wal-Mart wants the land to be rezoned as "planned development commercial," which gives city officials the right to mitigate negative impacts--like the size of the building itself.
The land currently is occupied by a single-family home and a vacant day care. The parcel is surrounded by nearby residential homes. Wal-Mart has yet to figure out an effective way to buffer a residential neighborhood from the traffic, lights and noise of a major store. Berms, fences, swales--none of them work. The site is close to Swan Meadows, a neighborhood just outside Rock Hill's city limits. It is a site that is incompatible with residential living---which is why it is not zoned for large retail uses.
Wal-Mart told local officials it would "build a fence and plant trees to create a barrier" between its store and the neighborhood, according to The Observer. But they also plan to put a gas station in their parking lot, and a parking lot large enough to hold 217 cars. A new traffic light will also force all residents to deal with a longer commute to and from home.
All this is being made possible by one elderly couple that is selling their home and 9 acres that has been in their family for 54 years. And now it will pass to Wal-Mart. The family did not want to reveal to the newspaper how much money they will make off the deal---but they are leaving some neighbors with a Wal-Mart in their backyard.
Unless the neighbors get in gear, and hire a land use attorney to challenge the rezoning, they are going to have a Wal-Mart as a night light. The issue is slated to come before the Rock Hill Planning Board in December, but it is the City Council which has the ultimate say on the project.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
Dear Mayor Echols,
Let's begin with the fact that Rock Hill already has two Wal-Mart superstores---so anyone in your city who is addicted to cheap Chinese imports doesn't have far to go. There is no need for another Wal-Mart store.
Second, let's agree that there is no foolproof way to "buffer" a 41,000 s.f. big box store from neighbors. Just the building alone is almost an acre of concrete footprint. The lights, noise and traffic cannot be hidden. Not by berms, fences, walls or swales. It will drag down property values, and leave homeowners financially trapped in their living rooms.
Third, this is not a job-producer. Sit down privately with Bi-Lo, or Food Lion, or any of your local markets and ask them what this project will do to their sales and jobs.
Finally, please remind the City Council that rezoning is not a right. One of the functions of zoning is to prevent incompatible land uses.
I urge you to tell Wal-Mart to find another neighborhood to sprawl in, and to look for land that is already properly zoned."