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2001-08-28
Longmont, CO. "Exceptional Benefits" of Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart must think residents of Longmont, Colorado have a short memory. It wasn't too long ago that Wal-Mart built a discount store in Longmont -- larger than most stores the community had ever seen. But now, as Wal-Mart Realty likes to say, the company has "outgrown" its current store, and wants to open up a 220,200 square foot supercenter (the largest it builds) roughly one mile away from their current store. The project will needlessly consume 28 more acres of land -- just so Wal-Mart can add a grocery store to gain market share. Never one to worry about zoning details, Wal-Mart's parcel not only needs to be annexed into the city, but it is zoned incorrectly. The parcel is now zoned for moderate density housing, and the Longmont City Council has to vote to annex the property and change the zoning, both of which are not "as of right" decisions, but are discretionary, and completely up to the Council to decide. Apparently for land to be annexed, the City Council must determine that the project brings "exceptional benefits" to the city. Wal-Mart's attorney has suggested that the new store's "benefits outweigh the negatives", but it does not appear that Wal-Mart has made any effort to quantify just what the negatives add up to. Wal-Mart claims their superstore will boost the current store's sales taxes from $1.5 million to $2.2 million a year. However, a true cost/benefit analysis would look at the potential dislocating impact of a supercenter on the existing grocery stores in the community, and how much public revenues would be lost if one or more of the existing stores were to close as a result of over-saturation of grocery stores. As soon as Wal-Mart's supercenter shadow passed over Longmont, a resident's group was formed to oppose it. The Longmont Residents for Responsible Development has attended every City Council meeting over the past several weeks, using their visits to argue against the "exceptional benefits" claim. "My immediate thought was that it is a very bad deficit to our community," said organizer Ann Rick, as quoted in the Daily Times-Call newspaper. The community also needs to assess the impact of creating a "dead" Wal-Mart if a new superstore is built within shouting distance. Wal-Mart currently has nearly 400 empty stores on the market, occupying more than 25 million square feet of nonproductive space. This proliferation of Wal-Mart cast-off stores has prompted the term "empty box syndrome" to describe the wasteful phenomenon. Wal-Mart also claims its new store will drive grocery prices down, but has offered no proof of the validity of such statements. In Wisconsin (see newsflash below) Wal-Mart recently settled a state case brought against the retailer for "below cost" pricing. Sprawl-busters has argued for years that Wal-Mart is the end of local competition, not the beginning. Everyday low prices depend on a diverse marketplace. As smaller stores decline, that diversity is threatened.

What you can do: For more information about the Longmont battle, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










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

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