Wal-Mart, the corporation that has been happy to see communities use eminent domain powers to advance its stores, now doesn’t like being on the other side of that coin. The city council in Hercules, California has, for the second time, voted to use eminent domain powers to acquire a parcel of land owned by Wal-Mart. Sprawl-Busters reported on May 5, 2006, that the city council in Hercules was poised to take Wal-Mart’s land by eminent domain. This week, Hercules voted again to use that power — and again their action was applauded by residents in the council chambers. But Wal-Mart was not clapping. “Eminent domain is not supposed to be used as a popularity contest,” a Wal-Mart attorney was quoted as saying in the Contra Costa Times. Opponents of a superstore have argued that a big-box store of this size is incompatible with the city’s pedestrian scale plans for the waterfront and central Hercules area. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart sued the city over the May council vote, charging that the Hercules Redevelopment Agency’s authority to invoke eminent domain had expired. The city holds that Wal-Mart’s property is economically “blighted” because of the lack of activity. The city says Wal-Mart’s plans do not conform to a 64,000 s.f. store size limit at Bayside Marketplace. The city did not follow up with eminent domain in court but in September, the council reaffirmed the redevelopment agency’s authority to invoke eminent domain, which Wal-Mart contended had expired, and extended it for 12 years. The council’s action was a “resolution of necessity,” which allows the Hercules Redevelopment Agency to initiate an eminent domain action without a further council vote within six months. The city will have to pay Wal-Mart the fair-market value for the property. Wal-Mart’s suit against Hercules was filed Nov. 7 in Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez.
Wal-Mart didn’t kick up a fuss when officials in Jefferson City, Missouri wanted to take land by eminent domain to build a Wal-Mart. The retailer didn’t file a lawsuit when officials in Newport, Kentucky voted to use eminent domain to take the properties of 12 homeowners to build a Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart didn’t intervene when the city of Ogden, Utah took 34 homes and 8 businesses by eminent domain to build a superstore. Wal-Mart did nothing to oppose the use of eminent domain in Arvada, Colorado for the retailer’s benefit. Wal-Mart was silent when the city of Alabaster, Alabama proposed to use eminent domain on 9 parcels to pave the way for a superstore. The city of Wheeling, West Virginia used eminent domain to move homeowners out of Wal-Mart’s way. Wal-Mart has been willing to be the beneficiary of eminent domain proceedings all across the country. Now that Hercules has turned the tables on them, the retailer doesn’t like being on the receiving end. To see related stories, search Newflash by “eminent domain.”