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2000-02-14
DeLand, FL. Everybody Used to Love Wal-Mart

Here's a Valentine's Day story of love gone sour. Wal-Mart came to DeLand, Florida in 1985, opening up a 65,000 s.f. store on Woodland Boulevard. They held a 20 year lease to rent their building -- very typical of Wal-Mart. Seven years later, they expanded the discount store to 84,000 s.f. But in 1997, only 12 years into their 20 year lease, Wal-Mart tried to get the city to allow them to build a 210,000 s.f. store on Highway 17. In September of 1997, the DeLand City Commission obligingly voted to rezone the land, which had to be annexed from the county into the city, from industrial to commercial. At that time, Wal-Mart was required to spend $15,000 on a traffic impact study, which showed that there would be many road failures if the store was built. A citizens group opposed to the superstore, DeLand First, began organizing to stop the project.In March of 1998, the City took a second vote on rezoning, this time after a nearly 6 hour public hearing in which everyone who spoke, testified against the superstore. But the city voted 3-2 to rezone the land. In May of 1998, the state Department of Community Affairs weighed in, saying the rezoning violated the city's own comprehensive land use plan. The City then began to try and forge a settlement, rather than reverse their land use decision. According to the Beacon newspaper, state officials dropped their opposition to the plan as subsequent traffic studies were done, but residents remained opposed to the plan. As of February, 2000 the City is still seeking to vote on an agreement with the DCA, that will put more pressure on DeLand First to agree to some settlement. One public official, Seminole County Commissioner Daryl McLain, summed up the sentiment about Wal-Mart's attempts to replace their original store. "They have a big contingency of people who are against them just because they're Wal-Mart," he told The Beacon. "Everybody used to love Wal-Mart 10 to 15 years ago. I guess they're coming into towns and building big stores, and people just don't want them." If Wal-Mart ever does build a supercenter in DeLand, they will close their 85,000 s.f. store before the lease runs out. This is a very typical Valentine that Wal-Mart "leaves" behind in the communities it comes to. "It's amazing to me," McLain says, "for a corporation like Wal-Mart -- that it doesn't have a better public image."

What you can do: It is truly amazing that a company which spends $1 million every day on advertising does not have a better public image. But after a while, what you do at the local level begins to catch up to you. Think of the hundreds of towns that took in a Wal-Mart discount store, only to learn 6 or 8 or 10 years later that the huge store they built needed to get bigger. And for what? One shopper in DeLand said she needed a bigger store, because the 85,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, which is nearly the size of two football fields, "lacks the space to stock a wide selection of many items." Our heart goes out to this poor woman on Valentine's Day.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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