Ballston, NY. After a 12 Year Battle, Wal-Mart Finally Gives Up.
This month, Wal-Mart finally threw in the towel in Ballston, New York,
Sprawl-Busters first learned of a Wal-Mart battle in the small town of Ballston in January of 2005. An activist from the group Ballston Concerned Citizens for Sustainable Communities wrote:
"We have been fighting for the revision to an eighteen year-old town master plan as the best way to fight off residential sprawl and big-box developers... We are just 20 miles north of Albany. Wal-Mart will be submitting plans for a new Superstore at the February 1st Town Board meeting." A project to put in some office space outside of the village had changed to a 197,000 s.f. Wal-Mart.
On August 1, 2006, residents reported that the Ballston Town Council had voted 5-0 to reject an application from Wal-Mart to build a 210,000 square foot supercenter. The proposed location, situated just outside the Village of Ballston Spa, was opposed by the majority of town residents. Individuals and a local grassroots organization, Concerned Citizens for Smart Growth, conducted an intense lobbying and public education campaign against bringing in the mega-retailer to this small community.
Activists said it was likely that Wal-Mart would resubmit their application or file a legal challenge against the Town of Ballston. Instead, it was the property landowners who repeatedly sued to overturn Ballston's decision.
On March 4, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a New York state Supreme Court Judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart and landowners in Ballston. The landowner sued the town when local officials turned down their Wal-Mart supercenter proposal for land along routes 50 and 67.
One year later, on March 27, 2008, Sprawl-Busters noted that landowners Frank and Marie Rossi were now three-time losers. They tried to use the court system to force a Wal-Mart superstore down the throats of their neighbors. The landowners tried to get the courts to overturn two local laws: the first in February of 2005 set up a six month moratorium on big box stores and large residential developments, and the second law in June of 2006 required a developer proposing a building larger than 90,000 s.f., or longer than 300 linear feet, or any site larger than 8 acres, to file for a Planned Unit Development District (PUDD).
One month after the town passed the PUDD ordinance, Wal-Mart filed plans for a 203,091 s.f. superstore on 30 acres. But the Appeals court ruled that the landowners failed to show that the town acted in a manner that was "arbitrary and unreasonable." The court affirmed that the town's PUDD law was "adopted for a legitimate governmental purpose."
In November of 2014, Smart Growth Ballston reported that a Wal-Mart developer returned with a PUDD that the town approved...sort of a bait and switch, promising 'mixed use' to match the town’s Comprehensive plan. A public hearing drew hundreds of people with signs and speeches against Wal-Mart. Smart Growth Ballston vowed to fight this over-scaled project as long as it takes. "We want to remind Wal-Mart that we denied them ten years ago, and we are not going away, not ever," one opponent told Sprawl-Busters.
On December 11, 2016, this latest update was posted from Ballston: “Smart Growth Ballston applauds Wal-Mart’s decision not to develop a big-box store in the Town of Ballston. As a result, Ballston now has another chance to pursue growth that community residents actually want – growth that preserves the community’s character, promotes locally-owned businesses, and adheres to the smart-growth vision of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.
We want to thank the hundreds of community residents who came to the public hearings, put signs on their lawns, wrote letters, called officials, and donated to the smart growth cause. Thanks to smart growth supporters, we were able to delay big box development for more than 12 years. In that time the economic reality changed enough for Wal-Mart to conclude that it made no sense to develop in the middle of a community that did not want it.
Smart Growth Ballston looks forward to working with the Town and the land owner to find a use for the property that fits the character of the Town of Ballston and the Village of Ballston Spa, follows the Comprehensive Plan, and promotes healthy economic growth.
Studies show that small-scale, locally owned, mixed-use development creates more and better jobs than big box development, and generates more tax revenue. Such “smart growth” preserves and promotes local community character and quality of life while minimizing the big box pitfalls of high traffic, high crime, and visual blight.”
What you can do: In 2005, when Sprawl-Busters first wrote about Ballston, there were 2 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Ballston. Now there are 8 Wal-Marts within 20 miles. There is clearly no need for more Wal-Marts in this trade area.
If someone is addicted to cheap Chinese products, Wal-Mart is located only minutes away in Saratoga Springs. Residents decided they don't need the gridlock on their roads, the increase in crime that is drawn like a magnet to Wal-Mart, and the negative impact on small businesses. A big box store is not what that PUDD district was created to achieve.
Sam Walton himself said, 'If some town, for whatever reason, doesn't want us to go in there, we're not going to go in and create a fuss.' A store three times the size of a football field is not compatible with the small town character of Ballston, with our population of less than 9,000 people.
No one outside of Ballston will come here--because they've got a Wal-Mart where they live already. The residents of Ballston don’t have to fight this store any longer.Another grassroots victory for small town America.