It looks like Wal-Mart’s effort to get into Crown Point, Indiana has stalled out in the courts. The Northwest Indiana Times reports this week that a developer’s lawsuit against the city’s big box ordinance is in limbo. Lauth Property, LLC and Crown Point Partners LLC and the city filed a joint motion to stay the federal district court case for 120 days. The move could mean the end of a fight to bring a Wal-Mart store to Crown Point. The developers have signed an agreement to sell 57 acres at the southeast corner of Interstate 65 and U.S. 231 to Harlem Irving companies. Lauth and its partner’s plan to bring two anchor stores to the Crown Point area were denied by the city earlier this year. The Mayor of Crown Point, Dan Klein, never warmed up to the idea of a Wal-Mart supercenter. “Personally speaking, I am not in favor of Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons,” the Mayor said. “I don’t believe they’re a good corporate citizen. I do not believe that a Wal-Mart anchor will promote a high quality retail development. Historically, they do not,” Klein said. In March, 2006, Lauth filed a complaint against the city and Plan Commission, charging that the city passed an ordinance controlling big-box development to prohibit a Wal-Mart from coming to Crown Point. The ordinance, however, was aimed at all big box retailers. It forced retailers who want to build stores 75,000 s.f. or larger to apply for a special permit before the Board of Zoning Appeals and City Council. The developer claimed that the city and commission violated the U.S. Constitution, the Indiana Constitution and conflicts with federal and state anti-trust laws. The City’s Attorney told the newspaper he is optimistic the property sale will go through, and the suit against the city will be dropped.
It is very common these days for cities and towns to require a special permit or variance for “developments of regional impact,” or ones that exceed a certain side. This is a perfectly legitimate planning tool, and if Lauth had continued pursuing its lawsuit, it surely would have lost in court. Municipalities can require special permits for such large scale projects, and even further, they can ban them outright, which is what a growing number of communities have done to plan for future growth. In the case of Crown Point, there are already 6 Wal-Mart stores within 15 miles of this proposed site, including a Wal-Mart supercenter only five miles away in Merrillville, Indiana. All the more reason to require a special permit for more large scale retailers — of which Wal-Mart is just one. After more than a year of controversy, another Wal-Mart is dead and gone.