The Stoughton, Wisconsin City Council voted on July 22nd to temporarily put on ice any future building permits for retail stores larger than 50,000 s.f. The Capitol News Service reports that the Council voted 7-5 to impose a “temporary delay” on permits for three months. The Council did not call its vote a “moratorium”, and in fact decided on the “delay” only after deciding not to pass a conventional moratorium. The City’s Plan Commission had recommended a 6 month moratorium for any buildings larger than 20,000 s.f. The city has been grappling with controversy ever since Wal-Mart announced it wanted to build a 180,000 s.f. supercenter on land that is just north of the city’s boundary line. A day or two before the Council voted to put a freeze on Wal-Mart, the company told the media that it was willing to search for another site, or just expand its existing store in Stoughton. “We are sensitive to the concerns with the site we chose for the Supercenter,” said Wal-Mart’s John Bisio. “We have decided to re-evaluate not only alternative sites, but to also look again at expanding the current store.” Bisio referred to the existing Wal-Mart discount store as “small”. The delay was considered a “watered-down” victory by local activists in the group Uff-da Wal-Mart, which has been aggressively fighting the superstore. Uff-da reports that “Wal-Mart is planning a big town hall meeting in September to present their alternate plans since they’ve recognized that a lot of people don’t like their current site. They’re also going to address claims in a door stuffer we sent around in June.” Uff-da expects Wal-Mart to put on a big “PR extravaganza” this fall.
For more background on Uff-da Wal-Mart’s fight against superstores, or just to find out what “Uff-da” means, search this database by “Stoughton”. This case is another example of “one Wal-Mart is one more than enough”. Residents know if that Wal-Mart gets an OK for a supercenter, that the existing store in Stoughton will become another one of Wal-Mart’s “dark stores”, along with nearly 400 other empty stores.