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2001-02-12
Fort Atkinson, WI. Not a good, clean, solid plan.

Sprawl-Busters in Fort Atkinson, WI sent me the following report of their town's struggles with a Wal-Mart: "After a newspaper article alerted our community to the fact that Wal-Mart was interested in building beyond the existing edge of our town, where a new by-pass intersects with an existing highway, several individuals acted independently, others in groups, to prevent Wal-Mart's mega-store from coming. At an unusually crowded city council meeting, where the council people were amazed to discover the strength of the convictions against Wal-Mart, it was voted that Fort Atkinson did not have the $1 million to construct a new 24" sewer line out to the proposed site. The construction firm representatives sent by Wal-Mart said that Wal-Mart figured its fair share for the sewer line was $250,000 but no more. "We are not a bank," they said." The City is in the process of amending its 20 year Master Plan. In December, the shadow of a 156,000 s.f. Wal-Mart spurred the city to form an ad hoc panel to update the Master Plan, apparently to accomodate Wal-Mart's needs! In the current Plan, the land Wal-Mart wants is zoned as an industrial reserve. City Manager John Wilmet told the Union newspaper that Wal-Mart's proposal "would at least be considered" The manager pretty much set the stage by saying "we pretty much determined that this would be a growth area and it should be developed with city utilities." But most recently, the media described the City Council as "stalling" the Wal-Mart development over the issue of the cost of extending a sewer line to the site, which could cost as much as $3 million.The Fort Atkinson Council President, Chip Day, told the paper "We've already just recently made big commitments in our downtown and in our industrial park. We've borrowed considerable monies to do that, and I don't think we can spend close to a million dollars to move this along." Day said the Wal-Mart proposal "doesn't look like a good, clean, solid plan." City officials seem to be looking for a way to amend their Master Plan to remove the industrial use designation from the land Wal-Mart wants, but the cost of infrastructure to the city is making them think twice.

What you can do: City officials recently were surprised to learn that Wal-Mart is going to double the size of their store in neighboring Watertown, WI, creating a superstore of 193,000 s.f. The people in Watertown appeared equally oblivious to the Fort Atkinson debate. "That's not our business," said Watertown's City Engineer. "We are just interested in the city of Watertown, not what goes on down there." The Fort Atkinson City Manager was undeterred when informed of the nearby superstore construction. "Wal-Mart would do their own studies and research to determine whether its viable to have a Wal-Mart supercenter in Fort Atkinson as well as another community near us." So much for regional planning in Wisconsin. In the words of Sam Walton:"We became our own competition."










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

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