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1999-12-17
Plano, TX. Wal-Mart Feels 'Animosity'

"There was definitely a lot of passion and animosity in the room against Wal-Mart last night," admitted Wal-Mart's one employee, who had to confront more than 500 angry residents who don't want a 113,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter at the corner of Independence Parkway and Hedgecox Road. The homeowners were assembled quickly by 8 homeowner's associations in Plano, according to the Dallas Morning News. Residents told Wal-Mart loud and clear that their proposal for a new supercenter was in the "wrong place" and totally unnecessary. Plano already has 2 Wal-Mart discount stores in the city, and one Sam's Club. One new supercenter on Coit Road has already been approved, and more supercenters are planned. All across the country Wal-Mart is closing down existing discount stores (they have several hundred up for lease) and replacing them with superstores (see the typical story of Rockland, ME below). Residents in Plano objected to the saturation of their community, noting that there is a Kroger, Albertson's and a Tom Thumb store all in easy access to the proposed site. That's 3 nearby grocery stores already, with Wal-Mart proposing a 4th. At an earlier meeting with neighbors, a Wal-Mart spokesman said that their proposal "is in a scale that fits that part of the area for development" and would be "adequate size to serve that side of Plano." Wal-Mart does not appear to have told residents yet that it plans to close down its existing discount stores -- but this has been the established pattern elsewhere in Texas and the nation. In fact, Texas has more "dead" Wal-Marts up for lease than any state in the nation. Residents told Wal-Mart they objected to the store being placed near a Middle School and an elementary school. They also resented being told about the project through a Wal-Mart flier which was stuffed in their mailbox, and only allowed them one hour to discuss a very major project affecting their future and their investment in their homes. At this week's neighborhood meeting, so many residents showed up at the library that half of them spilled out of the building and onto the steps, breaking into chants of "No Wal-Mart, No Wal-Mart". Wal-Mart's real estate manager said she was surprised by the response her company received, as if they had not been present in Texas towns like Richardson and Murphy -- where the giant was soundly rejected. Despite resident "animosity", all Wal-Mart could come up with was a promise to build a masonry buffer wall to shield nearby homes from the sight of a Wal-Mart, and a promise to change the color scheme of the store from red-white-and blue to tan and green. The company seemed nonplussed by the aggressive community anger. "Right now, I don't know what the neighborhood wants," said Wal-Mart's agent. "I want to please the neighbors". One of the things neighbors want is for Wal-Mart to hold off filing its site plan until residents have a chance to regroup and meet with homeowners -- but the company refused to delay. A Planning & Zoning meeting comes up on January 18th, and the City Council may meet soon to discuss the proposal as well. The homeowners associations have indicated they may try to get the land rezoned, raise traffic issues as a major concern, or mount a boycott of Wal-Mart.

What you can do: If Wal-Mart wants to "please the neighbors" -- it knows the quickest and easiest way to do that is to pull out of the Hedgecoxe Road location. They already have at least one supercenter approved in Plano, and enough Wal-Mart stores to choke a Texas horse. Residents realize that the overbuilding of all these stores is based on corporate greed, not public need. Building more grocery stores do not make people hungrier. It doesn't work that way. Wal-Mart feigns surprise at the hostility of Plano residents, but such animosity is becoming routine for Wal-Mart, and one of their PR people was recently in Las Vegas leading a seminar on "How to Deal with An Agnry Public". Wal-Mart's attempt to sooth the natives with a change in color scheme did little good. The absurdity of this plan was noted by one area resident who said: "Anyone coming to this site is going to hit a Wal-Mart beefore they get there." By meeting with neighbors, a Wal-Mart official said his company was "trying to be proactive". Wal-Mart said it wanted to "sit down with residents so they know what to expect and see if they have any questions. If there is something we can include or change in the plans that we think we can do, we will." The sad reality is, Wal-Mart offers very little that they will change, and any time a company admits it has to build a masonry wall to "shield" its impact on nearby properties, you know you've got what they call in Florida a "LULU" -- a locally undesirable land use". They're just plain mad in Plano -- and all Wal-Mart has to offer is a color change.










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

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