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2000-12-06
Keller, TX. Citizens Fight Lowe's Gorilla

Bob Tillman, the CEO of Lowe's home improvement stores, told the Wall Street Journal last month that "we want to be the 500 pound gorilla of the 21st century." That's appropriate, since stores like Lowe's tend to turn small communities into suburban jungles, complete with traffic gridlock and sprawling asphalt jungle parking lots. This is understood by residents of Keller, Texas, who have organized to fight off the gorilla. Lowe's has asked officials in Keller for a zoning change, since part of the 30 acre parcel they want is zoned for residential apartments. Lowe's wants the whole parcel rezoned for planned development, which would pave the way for the asphalt gorilla. Lowe's produced a study that showed if the city allowed a 179 unit apartment project on the site, plus 4 restaurants, it would generate 10% more traffic during the evening rush hour than a 135,000 s.f. Lower's. They used this comparison to suggest that "we would have improved the traffic situation by moving in." This tortured logic, that Lowe's IMPROVES traffic is defied by what is happening in Keller, where Kohls, Wal-Mart and Home Depot are all now building. City officials have every right to control the intensity of land use, and reduce congestion in the streets. They can prevent 179 apartments and 4 restaurants just as they can reject a rezoning for Lowe's. Area residents living near the proposed Lowe's know that the project will mean thousands of new car trips daily, with the worst damage on the week-ends. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already voted for the rezoning, with the Commission chairman saying that "Lowe's will not cause the traffic. That's not how it works. Lowe's wants to be there to take aadvantage of the traffic." Residents opposed to the plan also worry that the huge project is too close to the local elementary and middle schools. One Commissioner voted agains Lowe's saying "the location is a big concern for me." More than 800 local residents signed a petition against the store, but one Commissioner told the homeowners their petition had no legal bearing on the case. Lowe's claims that it is giving the neighborhood a more expensive to build store, with "earth tone bricks". They also claim the store will bring the city $850,000 in sales and property taxes, without accounting for any negative financial impacts due to other retailers closing as the chains take over. After the Planning Commmission vote, one resident told the Fort Worth Star Telegram:"What you are saying is that people don't matter, and money does." Call that the Law of the Jungle.

What you can do: Mayor Dave Phillips of Keller has been quoted as saying "It sounds like a great idea to me, except that it is in the wrong place." Yet city officials seem to be pushing the project. The residents who bought homes near the proposed site knew that one day apartments could be built there. But they never bargained for a windowless store 3 times the size of a football field. The Planning Commissioners rejected residents' claims that the store would depress the residential value of their properties. The Commissioners responded that they were "unaware of any research that supported the assertion that large retail buildings decrease the property values of surrounding homes." Even worse, they made no effort to find out if this assertion is real. All they had to do was hire an independent real estate appraiser (at Lowe's expense) to conduct a study. The results would have explained why CEO's like Bob Tillman do not live next to any of the gorillas that they build. It looks like officials in Keller are willing to promote the asphalt jungle, despite the protests of their own residents. The City Council takes up the rezoning on December 19th.










 
 
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