Cheered on by jubilant residents, the Thornton, Colorado City Council has done what the Denver Post described as a “U Turn”, and rejected on a 7-2 voted a rezoning for a Wal-Mart supercenter near Interstate 25 at a June 16th. meeting. At a council meeting in March, at which more than 500 residents showed up in opposition to the store, the same city council had voted 6-3 at a first reading in favor of the Wal-Mart, so this week’s vote was a stunning reversal for Wal-Mart’s plans. The Council went even further, by voting to suspend all new development for the northern part of the city until residents and businesses can come together to plan what they want the future of their corridor to look like. The “hold” on development could last into 2005. “The citizens have spoken, and I think we’ve been heard,” Ron Hardin, a leader of Residents United for Thornton, was quoted as saying. A spokesman for Wal-Mart expressed disappointment with the city ruling, and repeated the misleading statement that Wal-Mart meant 450 jobs and $1.5 million in taxes. “If there’s a (suspension) on future development, it’s not just the jobs in Wal-Mart that are lost but all the other jobs in places that are looking at Thornton and now may think about going to other areas,” the retailer said. Wal-Mart has the option of gathering signatures and placing the issue of the store on the ballot, but the company would not indicate its plans. Thornton’s Mayor Noel Busck told the Post that in the three months between March and June, the City Council had had time to consider the impact of its earlier vote, and to weigh what residents were telling them. The supercenter would have been located near some of the city’s most expensive homes. Neighbors complained that the store would destroy their quality of life, harm the environment, and increase the volume of traffic congestion. Wal-Mart opponents said they would put the measure on the ballot if the city had voted to support the 24 hour Wal-Mart. The Mayor said that he would not allow the Wal- Mart issue to divide the city. “I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve never had so much heat in my life,” he said. “I don’t mind debate, so long as the right decision comes out in the end…I’ll be damned if one issue divides this community.”
The Mayor of Thornton made it clear: citizen pressure stopped this store. The three months of community “heat” made a difference. “Sometimes the outcome is different,” the Mayor explained. “What this shows is that elected officials do listen to their constituents.” One resident told the Rocky Mountain News, “I hope it spreads the message that we don’t want Wal-Mart anywhere in Thornton. They’re forcing themselves into communities that don’t want them.” The Wal-Mart spokesman was left shaking his head over the turn of events. “One’s got to wonder how things
can change. We’ll keep our options open.” Mayor Busck kept his options open also. “I realized this was not the right site for this community,” he said. “But I do want Wal-Mart in this city.” So Thornton residents are going to have to keep their eyes open as well. For local contacts in Thornton, email [email protected], and search this database by “Thornton” or “Colorado” for similar stories.