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2000-07-04
Clemson, NC. Wal-Mart Threatens Lawsuits

Sam Walton used to say that if a town, "for whatever reason", didn't want a Wal-Mart, that his company would not go in and "create a fuss." Well, Wal-Mart is creating a big fuss in Clemson, and according to local newspapers, threatening lawsuits is part of the company's strategy. If you review newsflashes (below) at 4/2/00 and 1/27/00, you will find that every step of the way, Wal-Mart has encountered hostile votes at the city level. Wal-Mart needs the city to rezone land from residential to office commercial, and the company's attorney has said that Wal-Mart will be built, regardless of what the city decides. "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." Wal-Mart's lawyer has threatened to appeal an earlier decision by the Clemson Board of Zoning Appeals to oppose the project, and he's also filed a defamation lawsuit against the Clemson Homeowner's Association. A third lawsuit has been threatened by Wal-Mart's counsel against the city for unfairly delaying the project. In late June, the City's Planning Commission voted 3-3 on the issue of rezoning the land that falls inside Clemson. Wal-Mart's attorney was "pleasantly surprised' by the tie vote, according to the newspaper. The whole matter will go to the City Council for a final vote in August. The Council has already passed a motion to "research all possible means to prevent" the Wal-Mart project from locating on the Issaqueena Trail.

What you can do: It is not unusual for developers and their lawyers to use the courts as a stick to prod local officials to give into the "inevitability" of a superstore. The fact is, in this case, the City can follow its master plan and zoning code to simply say No to a rezoning. Neither Wal-Mart nor any other developer has a right to rezoning. Its a discretionary act left to local officials -- who must find that the project is compatible with the objectives and intent of its land use documents. Only if the city is arbritary and capricious in its decision, would the courts choose to substitute their judgement for that of local decision-makers. In other words, Wal-Mart's chances to get a vote not to rezone overturned in court could be very small. But it's the threat and the expense that developers count upon as a tactic. If you want to help the residents in Clemson, go to Wal-Mart's website, and email them a short note that says: "Pull out of Clemson, S.C., and stop threatening local taxpayers with a lawsuit. Remember Sam Walton's words about not creating a fuss where you are not wanted." A good corporate citizen would not pile on the lawsuits, but quietly pack its bags and move onto the next targeted community.










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

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