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2001-09-04
Atascocita, TX. Wal-Mart's Concrete Jungle

Two citizens groups in the Houston suburb of Atascocita, Texas say that Wal-Mart can't see the trees or the forest. Residents of Harris County say that an H.E.B. grocery store and a Wal-Mart Supercenter are not needed, and are wastefully squandering a prescious resource: trees. According to Wendee Holtcamp of the San Jacinto Conservation Coalition, the land for these megastores "are literally the last undeveloped forested tracts along the road...and once they are turned to concrete, it will forever change the look and feel of this area." This seems foolish to local residents, given the fact that there are already plenty of vacant malls in the Atascocita area. Both H.E.B. and Wal-Mart already have existing stores near the proposed site. Another group called the Atascocita Residents Who Care, say this pattern of development has led to unsightly, half-empty strip centers. H.E.B. and Wal-Mart both justify their actions by claiming that their customers made them do it. "Our Atascocita store does very well in the community," said an H.E.B. spokesman, "but overwhelmingly, when we do customer surveys, we hear time and time again that there is a desire for a bigger store with more choices." The line is the same at Wal-Mart, where the company for years has said its shoppers demand wider aisles. "We've really maxed out our ability to serve our customers," Wal-Mart's Daphne Davis told the local newspaper. "We want to continue to grow and we believe our customers want that too." But the President of the Humble, Texas Chamber of Commerce doesn't see the forest anymore. "It's basically a concrete jungle of strip centers and no trees," say Mike Byers. Texas already leads the nation in the number of "dead" Wal-Marts that have been opened and closed for larger quarters. Atascocita residents already have a Wal-Mart, and many believe that one Wal-Mart is one more than enough. They'd rather keep their trees instead.

What you can do: The San Jacinto Conservation Committee has begun a series of smart growth workshops to help local residents see the alternatives to big box strip development. The goal of the group is to foster growth that will "improve citizens' quality of life, rather than detracting from it." The group is especially concerned about the loss of forested communities, given the many ecological benefits that trees provide to the region, including improved air quality, reduction of stormwater, increased wildlife habitat, and a more aesthetically pleasing community. For more information about the battle to stop H.E.B. and Wal-Mart in Atascocita, go to www.sanjacinto.cc.










 
 
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