Is Wal-Mart a “variety store”? Or is it a “department store”? It’s a big difference in Lawrence, Kansas. City officials in Lawrence this week denied a Wal-Mart application for a building permit for a supercenter in the northwest corner of the city. According to the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper, the vote by the City Council is pursuant to a recent court case in which a District Court judge ordered the city to make a decision in the case. Last May, city officials refused to issue a building permit for a Wal-Mart supercenter, and instead ordered a building moratorium for the site. The issue at the time hinged on the definition of what kind of land use Wal-Mart was. The city said a “department store” was not an allowed use in the zone, but Wal-Mart claimed they were a “variety store”, which is a permitted use. When taken to court by the land owner and retailer, the city was ordered to formally deny the project — which they proceeded to do this week. The property owner then announced it would appeal the decision to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Wal-Mart, which already has one lawsuit pending against Lawrence, said it would probably appeal this week’s denial as well. The land owner’s appeal will be heard before the Zoning Board on October 2nd.
The developer’s mantra: “What you can’t get by regulation, try to get by litigation.” Wal-Mart hasn’t been known as a variety store since Sam Walton worked for the Ben Franklin company. Officials in Lawrence are to be commended for trying to stop this latest supercenter project. The city is already burdened with enough Wal-Marts to add plenty of “variety” for local residents. One Lawrence resident who called Sprawl-Busters said “we have enough Wal-Mart’s around us already to last a lifetime. Who needs more?”