The Taos News reports that “hundreds” of residents packed the Town Council chambers in Taos, New Mexico to oppose a zoning amendment to the Land Use Development Code that would eliminate a cap on the size of retail buildings, thereby paving the way for a Wal-Mart supercenter, and resulting in the closure of an existing Wal-Mart discount store in this small community. So many people turned out for the hearing, that the paper said residents spilled out of “the hallways of the building and even the street” at the January 23rd hearing. This session was only for opponents to the project, because a meeting last month was solely for supporters to speak. Opponents to the supercenter identified themselves with green ribbons. Even though the Mayor of Taos limited testimony to two minutes per person, as many as 70 residents spoke against the rezoning, and the hearing stretched out for several hours. According to the newspaper, Taosenos made four major points: 1) the town should stick to its “Vision 2020 Master Plan,” adopted in 1999, that limits the size of buildings to no more than 30,000 square feet. 2) the supercenter would have a negative economic impact on smaller businesses in town, causing an adverse impact on public revenues. 3) the suburban model store would be incongruous in the picturesque “uniqueness that is the look of Taos,” and 4) Wal-Mart is a company with a bad track record for discriminating against women, minorities, and its own workforce. Although opponents were fearful that Wal-Mart supporters were trying to make the vote into a racial issue, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce came out against the Wal-Mart supercenter. Taosenos against the project also submitted a petition they said contained 6,800 signatures, opposing the zoning change.
Wal-Mart already has a discount store in Taos. They just want a bigger one with a grocery, and the town has clearly stated since 1999 that size matters in Taos. Apparently the company and the Mayor have not understood that message. Wal-Mart is not being prevented from doing business in Taos — in fact locals say the store has caused a number of existing businesses to fold — it is just being told that the scale of buildings in Taos has to be compatible with the rest of the built and natural environment. This is Wal-Mart’s second push for a supercenter in this community, and Wal-Mart is blatantly ignoring its founder’s statement that Wal-Mart will not go where it is not wanted. For more background on this community, search this database by “Taos”.