The Gainesville City Commission voted 5-to-2 this week to deny a proposal to build a 250,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter on U.S. 441. Wal-Mart will now be forced to look for other locations in the city to build. Among those voting against the location were Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, who said she had serious reservations about the Wal-Mart plan. This Commission meeting, which went into the early hours of the morning, was the first time the commission publicly spoke at length about the latest Wal-Mart proposal, according to the Gainesville Sun. The Wal-Mart plan would have required the city to amend its comprehensive plan to allow a supercenter on the property. The 91-acre site has a wetland area, plus the headwaters of Hogtown Creek, Gainesville’s longest urban waterway, which is tied to the city’s drinking supply. “There is a perception that Wal-Mart has fallen short of being a good corporate citizen,” one commissioner told the company.Wal-Mart’s record on pollution, diversity and concern for the surrounding communities were all part of the evening’s discussion. Wal-Mart was specifically asked about recent controversies surrounding the company, including a class-action lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart alleging gender discrimination and a settlement reached between the company and the Environmental Protection Agency over pollution at construction sites. A Gainesville representative for Wal-Mart said that most of the Wal-Mart employees at the NW 13th Street location are women, and four out of nine members of their senior management are female. But in the end, the commissioners were not prepared to endorse the plan, and there was no gain for Wal-Mart in Gainesville.
It’s growing increasingly difficult for Wal-Mart to pull off the ‘good corporate citizen’ pitch in local towns. Here’s a case where Wal-Mart’s reputation has preceeded it, to the detriment of its local plans. For earlier stories about Wal-Mart’s frustrated efforts to build supercenters in Gainesville, search this Newsflash database by the name of the city. For local contacts in Gainesville, contact [email protected]