Versailles, KY. Residents Scramble To Stop Another Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart has finally thrown off the veil and revealed itself to the small city of Versailles, Kentucky, population 8,900--and many residents are up in arms.
According to an April 8th article in the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky, a 118,096 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore, plus a gas station, has been "finally publicly confirmed" ending months of rumors. Plans for the big box have now become public record, submitted to the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission office in Versailles.
The superstore building, which is almost 3 acres in size, will sit on a 57 acre parcel along state Route 33, known as the Troy Pike. This parcel was only brought into Versailles in 2012 through annexation, and was rezoned at the time to permit commercial use. Local residents realize now that if they had know the rezoning of this parcel was meant to pave the way for a superstore, they would have seized the moment to speak out against rezoning land.
As it stands now, opponents of the project are gearing up for a meeting of the city's Technical Review Committee on Monday morning, April 14th in the Woodford County Courthouse. This meeting has been portrayed as a technical scan to see if the project meets the county planning ordinance, and from there the proposal will be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission of Versailles-Midway-Woodford County.
Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, who clearly has been part of the negotiations during the rumor phase, is one of the frontline supporters of the plan, which he said could open for business by the summer of 2015.
"Our proximity to Lexington, Frankfort and Georgetown is one of our best attributes," the Mayor told the Herald-Leader--but it also poses one of our greatest challenges in ... keeping people shopping locally. Having something like a Wal-Mart here will allow people to stay here, to not make that initial trip to Lexington, where they would eat, fill up their gas tanks, maybe get their hair cut. As soon as people cross that county line, I think we lose them."
Mayor Traugott apparently thinks buying at a Wal-Mart is shopping "local," rather than feeding the bottom line of a national corporation. Other locally-owned merchants that will lose sales might take issue with their Mayor. Wal-Mart creates neither jobs nor net revenue for local communities, once losses elsewhere in the trade area are considered. Wal-Mart simply shifts market share from existing cash registers, into their cash registers.
The reality is, a small community like Versailles does not need, and cannot alone support,a large superstore. Versailles already has 10 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles---including a supercenter 12 miles away in Lawrenceburg, 14 miles away in Frankfort, 15 miles away in Lexington. and 16 miles away in Nicholasville. The Versailles store is what's known as a "fill in" store, because in a saturation strategy, Wal-Mart begins by spreading out stores in major markets, and then filling in the areas in between to choke off the competition. The Mayor may think county lines on a map matter to shoppers---but they do not. Anyone living in Versailles who is addicted to cheap Chinese imports, already has 4 superstores within a short drive.
A small town without a Wal-Mart escapes the traffic, crime and character-impacts that large, highway-oriented retail brings with it. Versailles already has a Kmart and a Kroger--both of which will lose market share or even die--leaving the city with blighted property, and less competition than before Wal-Mart.
As Sprawl-Buster's recently noted in Newsflash, Wal-Mart is already stewing in controversy on the west side of Louisville, Kentucky, where residents are fighting back against a superstore in their community.
Versailles residents have launched a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stopwalmartversailles, and stated their position: "The administrators of this page are not anti-growth. We are concerned about further development at the intersection of 33 and BG Parkway when Versailles already has several abandoned and under developed properties available for use. Properties that have been available for YEARS. Some of the questions we need to have answered are as follows: What will the real cost be to the taxpayers to provide the additional infrastructure needed to support this development, how will it altered the adjacent property values and how will the County address congested traffic patterns on this already busy road? What impact will the development have on existing businesses? How many existing jobs and how much existing tax revenue will be lost when current businesses such as K-Mart, Save A Lot, the Dollar stores, Terry's, Ace Hardware, etc... are forced to close due to lack of revenue? What will the true net gain be for Versailles over the long haul? Is replacing one set of jobs with another, especially if they might be lower paying/ part time jobs really a positive move for the residence of Versailles? As Wal-Mart (or any big box store) out-competes smaller, local stores what will the community do with the empty retail spaces? How do these abandoned properties impact local property values and tax revenues? Are we just jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Are we simply moving our retail space from Versailles road to 33 leaving behind acres of abandoned retail space?" Residents fear that the entryway to the new store "will result in the addition of a second traffic light between the BG Pkwy exchange and Falling Springs Blvd. This will cause further congestion and back-ups in an already heavily traveled area."
Opponents conclude that Versailles needs to make sure that "the growth we support benefits the community at large as well as the developers and landowners."
What you can do: Citizens of Versailles are going to have to raise money quickly to bring on a land use attorney to challenge this project during its hearings before Planning and Zoning. The fact that Wal-Mart has run into opposition in Kentucky communities suggests that the giant retailer's reputation precedes it, so that even southern towns are up in arms at the very mention of a Wal-Mart.
Residents will need other expert help as well, including their own traffic engineer, to level the playing field. They should be urging the Planning and Zoning officials to insist that an independent traffic study be conducted to compare to Wal-Mart's own self-serving analysis.
Readers are urged to contact Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott at: email@example.com with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Traugott,
Your support for another Wal-Mart in our trade area seems to be based on economic arguments, yet what will be the impact of adding another chain store in the Versailles market? How many existing jobs will be lost? Wal-Mart has a habit packing stores together in one small area, cannibalizing even its own existing stores just to pick up more market share. But almost half of this new store will be food sales, and there is only so much food local residents can consume---adding more grocery stores doesn't change that. So the slices of the food market pie just get divided thinner and thinner.
Wal-Mart jobs come at a great cost to the taxpayer. Many of these 'new' jobs will pay so low ($8.81 is the real average wage of its clerks and baggers) that many of these workers will go on Medicaid for health care, foods stamps, and other taxpayer support. They will not be earning a living wage. What do we profit by opening up one superstore by carving out jobs at several other existing businesses in Versailles? This project looks like voo-doo economics.
And then there is the issue of quality of life. You cannot buy small town character and lifestyle on any shelf at Wal-Mart. But once they take it from you, they can't sell if back to you at any price. The qualify of life in Versailles is worth more than a cheap pair of underwear.
I urge you to hold your support on this project until you research the real financial impacts of this project, including the added costs of police and fire responses."