A citizen’s group called the Informed Citizens Alliance (ICA) has filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to stop work on a 104,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the defendants in the suit are the Truth Or Consequences City Commission and Planning and Zoning Board, and the Ashbaugh Construction Company, which is developing the so-called Hot Springs Retail Center. The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart’s plans were deficient, and that some grading at the site was completed without proper approvals, along with other environmental issues. “It’s a crapshoot,” said a spokesman for the Informed Citizens Alliance. “Whatever we can do, we will do..It’s not a done deal until the doors open.” The developer told the newspaper that the proposal is “a beautiful project that the city desperately needs. I know these people have their concerns, but I think they are pretty much unfounded.” The ICA charges that the proposed Wal-Mart will hurt area businesses, harm the established commercial center downtown, and change the city’s character. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the newspaper, “All across the country, Wal-Mart and other entities serve areas side by side. It’s all about customer preference and choice.”
This case is not about customer preference at all. It’s about land use and zoning. Wal-Mart likes to reduce all zoning debates to “customer choice,” as if use of land was an issue based on shopping needs. The Mayor of Truth or Consequences added this insightful comment: “Nobody can read the future. We can’t say for certain that it (Wal-Mart) is going to be a blessing for the community, or that it won’t, or that some businesses won’t be affected.” If the Mayor did a little due diligence, she might be more concerned about the economic impact of Wal-Mart. She must know that cities and towns all across New Mexico have been fighting Wal-Mart, from Taos to Tijeras — because the citizens and the small merchants in these communities know that Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development, and does not create “new” jobs at all. Most of its sales are transferred from existing merchants. If the Mayor of Truth or Consequences doesn’t understand yet the Truth about Wal-Mart, her constituents will suffer the Consequences of her mistake.