Citizens in Bristol, Tennessee have asked city officials to rescind a vote they took to rezone land that would pave the way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The Bristol City Council made the unfortunate decision on March 5th, rezoning a parcel of 63 acres of land near the Volunteer Parkway from residential to commercial. A number of homeowners actually abut the rezoned property. The Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth have told city officials to either rezone the land back or put the question before voters on the ballot. Under the Bristol City Charter, citizens can petition for certain actions of the City Council, such as zonings, to be rescinded by a vote of City Council or that a referendum be placed on the ballot. On March 21st, to drive home the seriousness of the request, the CCRG presented officials with a petition with 1,200 signatures. Bristol officials were warned when they voted that the citizens group wanted the city to research the impact of a Wal-Mart supercenter on Parkway traffic, plus the economic impact on nearby residents and businesses. Residents complained that city officials refused to discuss their concerns, and dismissed fears of the economic impacts this project would have on local small businesses.”We hope that the council chooses to rescind their vote or let the people of Bristol vote on it,” CCRB spokesman John Barker told the Bristol Herald Courier. If the Council does not rescind its vote, the election can occur either at a general election or at a special city election. CCRG had to collect the signatures of 571 registered voters (25% of the most recent vote total) in Bristol within 17 days after the original zoning vote. CCRB collected more than twice the required number of signatures. And what was Wal-Mart’s response to the citizen’s efforts? “I can’t speak on behalf of Wal-Mart, ” a spokesman for Wal-Mart’s developer, Certified Properties, told the Herald Courier, “but if its not wanted in this community, we can find a community that wants it.” So there!
The developer’s childish threat (“play ball with me or I’ll take my ball and go home”) is a typical intimidation tactic. The record shows that once this referendum goes on the ballot, Wal-Mart will unleash its corporate treasury to try to buy its way into the city. Wal-Mart has spent as much as a quarter of a million dollars or more on ballot questions — and often has put itself on the ballot when it didn’t like a city vote. CCRG will have to warn voters early that Wal-Mart will smother them with voter ID polls, direct mailings, radio ads, etc. For more information on Bristol’s Ballot, contact [email protected] For more info on similar voter questions, search this database by “vote” or “ballot”.