“Homeowners want to live where they can get full services.” That’s one of the pleas made in a full page advertisement paid for in The Norman (OK) Transcript on June 21st, two days before the City Council voted 8-1 to approve a rezoning that would allow Wal-Mart to build a supercenter on the east side of Norman. The Council vote literally paves the way for Wal-Mart to make book-ends out of Norman — building a 150,000 s.f. superstore on the east side, and a 215,000 s.f. superstore on the west side of the city. A group called The Citizens for Norman, Today and Tomorrow ran ads opposing the two stores, including photos of empty, dead megastores in other towns in Oklahoma. The City Council had to amend its 2020 Land Use plan to rezone 23 acres of land especially for Wal-Mart that was zoned office development and residential. For Norman homeowners, “full service” means having a Wal-Mart on THEIR SIDE of town. Norman already has one Wal-Mart, and the company has not disclosed what it will do with the “old” store (built less than 10 years ago) once it opens both new supercenters next fall on the same day. So the people of East Norman get THEIR OWN Wal-Mart, and the people of West Norman get THEIR OWN Wal-Mart, and presumably people in between can shop at either store. Wal-Mart originally tried to hit up the city to pay for $375,000 in roadwork, but later withdrew that request after negative public response. A cartoon in the local paper after the City Council vote shows a tiny downtown surrounded on both ends by a huge East Side and a West Side Wal-Mart. The caption reads: “Norman — A small town appeal with a Wal-Mart feel.” The ultimate irony about this Norman story, is that the two supercenters will be a grand total of only….3 miles apart. That’s right, the people on the east side who wanted “full service” living, couldn’t deal with a 3 mile drive to their nearest supersprawl! As one local businessman summed it up: “Many have said they don’t want a second Wal-Mart. I would hope they would vote their conviction by not shopping there.”
The good citizens of Norman now need help organizing a South Side citizens for Wal-Mart, and a North side citizens for Wal-Mart. The people in the south will have to drive 2.5 miles to their nearest Wal-Mart, which is unacceptable and discriminatory. Residents on the North are frustrated because they don’t know whether they are supposed to shop at the east side or the west side Wal-Mart. Maybe if they wait long enough, they won’t have a choice left. How long will the 2 supercenters sit 3 miles apart anyway. The “I can’t do anything about it” award for this month goes to Norman Mayor Bob Thompson, who is quoted as telling residents: “The only thing the council can rule on is whether that property is suitable for commercial use.” Is there some kind of new government entitlement in Norman regarding rezoning? Something’s not OK in OK.