Sprawl-Busters reported on September 15, 2004, that Wal-Mart and town officials in Prescott Valley, Arizona were involved in a “work-study meeting” regarding a 57 acre parcel Wal-Mart wants near the intersection of Florentine Road and Glasford Hill for a 184,000 s.f. supercenter. The land was not properly zoned, and had to be annexed into the town. The area already has a Wal-Mart roughly six miles away. This store concept rumbled around for several years, but Wal-Mart eventually hired a PR firm and created an “astro-roots” group to overwhelm the grassroots efforts to block their store. Anti-Wal-Mart forces gathered signatures to stop the rezoning effort on the ballot. Proposition 400 required a Yes vote to rezone the land for Wal-Mart. The group Wal-Mart created, the “Friends of Prescott Valley, Yes on 400,” ran into financial controversy for not reporting its source of income. The group faced a $70,000 fine for failing to disclose its income under state law. The pro-Wal-Mart group gave the town a campaign statement that listed no receipts — yet showed a debt of $33,313. Wal-Mart’s PR firm described the oversight as “a small error on our part.” The Scottsdale PR firm added, “we will certainly get it rectified.” The $33,313 spent was reportedly for pro-Wal-Mart lawn signs and “ballot arguments.” When confronted by the town Clerk, the PR firm admitted that the “Friends of Prescott Valley” had bought its advertising with “primary funding” from Wal-Mart. On the other side of the issue, a citizen’s group called “Protect Prescott Valley,” which the newspaper called “a union-sponsored group,” received a total of $4,300 from Local 99 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Although the Wal-Mart group was showing a huge deficit, one of its members was quoted in the Daily Chronicle newspaper as saying, “Let me reassure you that the committee has received funding from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. well in excess of the debt amount.” They just forgot to show it. On March 13th, 2007 the voters supported the Wal-Mart rezoning by a 65% majority. It turns out that every vote in Prescott Valley was worth its weight in gold, as the group received more than $300,658 from Wal-Mart and its consultants. After the election, the group reported receiving contributions from Wal-Mart of $100,000 on March 9, $116,100 March 12 and about $59,558 March 16, and $25,000 from the Prescott Valley-based Fain group March 9. The committee reported spending $266,243 during the Feb. 22 to April 2 reporting period. The group “Protect Prescott Valley,” received a total of $1,500 from Local 99 of the United Food & Commercial Workers union, and spent $1,486 during the same reporting period. That means for every one dollar spent by the anti Wal-Mart group, $179 was spent by the pro Wal-Mart group. After four years of controversy and battles, it was announced this week that Wal-Mart has put the Prescott Valley store on hold. A senior manager for public affairs at Wal-Mart said that the company is delaying the opening of the store at the Glassford Hill Marketplace from early 2009 until sometime in 2010. This makes Prescott Valley the 62nd community to see a Wal-Mart project either cancelled or delayed since last June. This store was slated to open in early 2009 — but now its future is clouded.
Last June, Wal-Mart announced that it was slowing down its growth plans in the United States, and revealed that in addition to cutting back on new supercenters, the retailer was going to postpone 80 store openings scheduled in 2008. In the Prescott Valley case, Wal-Mart would not give a date certain for the opening. “We have a new strategy for our growth,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson told the Chronicle. “We have reviewed all of our projects and made decisions on each one whether to move ahead with them and, in some cases, decided to readjust the timeline.” This announcement left local officials in disbelief. “We’ve got no official word of this,” Town Manager Larry Tarkowski told the newspaper. “Until I have some direct contact with Wal-Mart, I really don’t have much to say until I find out what their revised schedule is.” Wal-Mart claims that they are still committed to opening the store. “We have a lot invested in the Prescott Valley community and we know that the community is excited about this store and we’re excited to build it and to serve this community,” Wal-Mart said. “It is something that we’re looking forward to bringing to Prescott Valley.” The developer, the Fain Signature Group, which helped finance the voter referendum, told The Chronicle the store might open in 2010. “We would like them to open as soon as they can, but we understand (that) with their corporate goals and strategies that they have to move construction timelines around,” he said. “The referendum and different issues delayed them and this is just a kind of result of those earlier issues.” Readers are urged to email Prescott Mayor Harvey Scoog at [email protected] with the following message: “Mayor Scoog, you have a background in retail management and customer services. You know that lining the roadways of Prescott Valley with huge suburban big box sprawl is not going to create a financial advantage to your town. Most of Wal-Mart sales will come from existing merchants, and brings you no added value. It’s hard to see how a 184,000 s.f. store is an example of your dictum that “managed growth spells quality.” Your residents are concerned about quality of life, not quantity of cheap Chinese imports. Wal-Mart’s latest project delay shows you how fragile your relationship with this company really is. Fain Signature may be nervous over this delay, but the town should use it as an opportunity to put a moratorium on more big box growth, so you can consider putting limits on the size of big box stores. You already have a superstore 7 miles away in Prescott, and a second one 10 miles away in west Prescott. This kind of saturation is why Wal-Mart put this project on hold — because it would cannibalize their nearby stores. You have the choice of leading growth, or following it. Take charge and really manage growth, instead of having your town’s future dictated by out of state corporations you have no influence over. Make Wal-Mart fit into Prescott Valley, instead of the reverse.”