A Judge in Douglas County, Kansas has thrown out two lawsuits filed against city officials in Lawrence, Kansas for their refusal to approve a Wal-Mart supercenter on Sixth Street. The Judge threw the lawsuits out because five other lawsuits are already pending in the case, and duplicate lawsuits are only allowed in rare cases. Wal-Mart, which likes to portray itself as the victim of countless lawsuits, is hardly reluctant to sue local communities itself. In the case of the city of Lawrence, when officials blocked its 132,000 s.f. store, Wal-Mart sued the city, in league with a partnership of developers. The city ruled that the proposed Wal-Mart is a department store, prohibited by the site’s zoning. Wal-Mart and the developer say it is not a department store, it’s an allowable variety store. The city also came up with a plan to charge the developer nearly $1 million in special assessments for the construction of two new streets that were needed for the project. The developer said they shouldn’t have to pay because City Hall didn’t allow the construction. The city’s lawyer said the two lawsuits were duplicative, and that the developer’s land will go up in value because of the new street construction. The landowners, he said, are free to develop in another manner appropriate to the zoning. “They want to take their ball and go home because they aren’t being allowed to build what they want,” the city’s attorney said. The developer’s lawyer said her client “isn’t sitting out there … saying, ‘Gee, I wish I had some more lawsuits to file.'” She noted that if the developer doesn’t get permission to build, the new roads will do them no good. “As you can see,” the developer argued, “these are pretty roads to nowhere.” For now, it looks like the proposed Wal-Mart in Lawrence, Kansas is also on a road to nowhere.
Wal-Mart’s lawsuit is costing the city a lot of hard-earned tax dollars. The city has determined that this store does not fit into the permitted uses in that district. Rather than move on, Wal-Mart has forced the city to spend money to defend its zoning decision. Lawrence also has its share of Wal-Marts, and it is not hard for any local resident to find big box stores. This case may end up turning on the definition of what Wal-Mart is, but it is clear that one word describes what the company is: litigious.