Louisville, KY. Citizen Lawsuit Beats Wal-Mart in Louisville
Wal-Mart “stunned” political leaders in Louisville, Kentucky On October 28th when it canceled plans for 154,000 s.f. superstore in the West End of the city after three years in the planning. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer immediately blamed the project collapse on a “preservation-minded lawsuit,” according to the Courier-Journal newspaper.
The Fischer administration used public funds to sweeten Wal-Mart’s deal. The city put up $1.8 million to buy six parcels adjacent to the former Philip Morris plant, which closed in 2000. The Mayor also offered a $500,000 grant to Wal-Mart, to be given to the world’s richest retailer in $100,000 increments each year for five years---on condition that Wal-Mart met and maintained a threshold of at least 225 jobs. (The Mayor had no figure on how many existing jobs the Wal-Marat would kill.)
“The frustrating truth is had it not been for the lawsuit brought by a very small group of citizens, Wal-Mart would be open today,” Hizzoner said. "I'll tell you, it's a testament to some people's insistence that progress can only be made on their terms," he said.
But one of the nearly dozen local residents who filed the lawsuit, told the newspaper the citizens who fought Wal-Mart were not to blame. "The project failed from the jump due to the lack of transparency and true community engagement,” she said.
Wal-Mart itself never likes to admit that citizen opposition has stymied their efforts. A Wal-Mart spokes told the Journal that the his company’s collapse was due to "various business factors and extensive delays to the project."
The Mayor spoke often of the jobs and payroll Wal-Mart would bring—numbers he parroted from the retailer. But there was a lot of other money involved in this project. The developers who pushed the project bought the 15.5 acre site from the city for $1 in 2006. One of the developers told the Journal it was “devasting” for her. The owners stood to make millions from the sale to Wal-Mart.
A former economic development officer for the city told the Journal that it was "ludicrous" for residents believe that Wal-Mart couldn't build their store according to city rules. The lawyer who represented the residents said that if Wal-Mart had not insisted on setting their store deep in the lot instead of building up to the curb, the suit would never have been continued.
Porter, who represented the plaintiffs, said Friday that the project's demise was never his clients' intent. He said that if Wal-Mart had agreed to build to the curb — and the city had approved a pending $250,000 appropriation to build some bus stop-style structure near 18th and Broadway — then the suit would have been withdrawn.
But the Mayor remained adamant. “As anyone involved in business will tell you, time kills deals. And the time taken up by this lawsuit killed the Wal-Mart deal."
Citizens should remember that quote when they are weighing whether or not to sue.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Mayor Gary Fischer at https://louisvilleky.gov/government/mayor-greg-fischer/contact-mayors-office with the following message:
Dear Mayor Fisher,
First you give land worth millions of dollars away to developers, then you thrown tax dollars at the richest family in America, then you blame your own citizens because they think Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development. Frankly, Mr. Mayor, you have been wrong on this project for the past three years. Now you should be happy that you have dodged a bullet, and avoided the economic dislocation caused by Wal-Mart.
Stop blaming your residents for the mistakes you made.