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2000-11-11
Clemson, SC. Wal-Mart A Two-Time Loser

Over the past ten months, we've run 4 newsflash articles about a developer's attempts to locate a Wal-Mart supercenter in Pickens County, just over the line from Clemson, South Carolina. (see 1/27, 4/2 and 7/4 newsflashes). What Wal-Mart could not get by regulation, they tried to get by litigation, filing at least 2 lawsuits along the way. Their lawyer tried to make Wal-Mart sound like an inevitable conclusion. "Do I think there will be a Wal-Mart there?" the attorney told the Independent-Mail. "Absolutely. I'd bet my life on it, in the courts." Ślthough the store was not in Clemson, the developer needed a strip of land inside Clemson to get access to his proposed 204,000 s.f. supercenter. But the Clemson City Council refused to rezone the land from residential to office commercial, thus blocking the land, which is located on the Issaqueena Trail. The City Council voted 5-2 in late August to deny the rezoning. After the vote, Wal-Mart's lawyer responded: "The sad thing is the people in that room think they've won. There's going to be a Wal-Mart on that site. And unfortunately the city is going to get no tax money from that site, and I hate that." The Mayor, who voted against Wal-Mart, said the vote was "unquestionably the toughest issue the City Council has ever had to deal with, and that's no understatement." Just to nail the lid shut, the City Council came back on September 5th and took a "second reading" on the motion to rezone -- and for a second time voted 5-2 to nix the Wal-Mart. Each of these votes was witnessed by hundreds of opponents from the Citizens for Responsible Growth. In October the developer tried again to have his land rezoned by dividing it into two parcels, and tried to get zoning approval to build 2 twenty foot driveways through the property. The Zoning Board voted 6-0 to deny this maneuver. Finally, the developer offered to deed his land inside Clemson to Pickens County. The move would have given the county the control of the strip of land, boxing out the City. But the Chairman of the County Council told the Independent-Mail: "I think at this point in time, the city and Wal-Mart need to come to some sort of conclusion on the project, and I don't think deeding the land to the county would assist that." Wal-Mart offered to pay for any legal costs the county might assume if the City tried to sue the county. Wal-Mart also offered to pay for any road construction or grading costs and to redo the building facade to the county's specifications. But the county decided not to pit itself against the City, and now Wal-Mart is left with only the courts as their last resort, having failed to play the city against the county. Wal-Mart is now a two-time loser in Clemson. And despite the developer's lawyers boasting, it appears the people inside that room actually won.

What you can do: The Wal-Mart lawyer who bet his life on building in Clemson may have to take out life insurance, because on November 7th. the voters in Clemson elected Stephanie Barczewski to the City Council. Barczewski is the President of the CRG, and led the battle against Wal-Mart on the Issaqueena Trail. It looks like Wal-Mart will have to be content with building a new supercenter in Seneca, just 15 miles away. In Seneca, the new Wal-Mart will be located right across the street from an existing Wal-Mart. This is the same pattern Wal-Mart followed in Anderson, SC, when it opened a supercenter in January of 1999 and closed down its discount store. As of mid-September, Wal-Mart already had 17 stores in South Carolina on the market to lease or sell, ranking South Carolina 8th. highest in the nation for "available" Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart told shoppers in Seneca that their current 93,000 s.f. store was "not a very big store to shop in" and that the new supercenter "would mean a little more room to shop in on Saturday."










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

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