On April 17, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a Superior Court judge in Wake County, North Carolina had rejected efforts of local residents in Knightdale, North Carolina to block a Wal-Mart superstore from being built far too close to their neighborhood. The Judge ruled that Knightdale officials did not act improperly in 2006 when they approved the Wal-Mart. The Citizens Against Residential Encroachment (CARE) had charged in their lawsuit that Knightdale officials failed to notify neighbors of public hearings, and improperly gave the developer variances to the town’s ordinances. In the summer of 2006, CARE hired Attorney Mike Brough of Chapel Hill to file a lawsuit against the town of Knightdale for voting to rezone residential land to commercial. The residents charged that one councilor who voted for the project had a conflict of interest. The Judge said none of the plaintiffs were denied the opportunity to be present at any hearing, and the councilman had no substantial financial interest in the project. The Knightdale Town Council, by one vote, had approved plans for the “Village Park Commons,” a shopping center with about 439,000 s.f. of buildings, including 19 acres that had to be rezoned for a 206,000-s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter. CARE said the store was much too close to residential property, and would attract crime, light and noise pollution, and hurt property values. The judge’s decision allowed a Wal-Mart Supercenter to be built within 100 feet of numerous family backyards. At the time, CARE stated that they would keep fighting, just like citizens in Hickory, North Carolina, who fought their battle until Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal. How prophetic that statement was. Almost one year later, on March 3, 2008, the Knightdale Town Council announced the cancellation of the Village Park Commons development (including the new Super Wal-Mart), citing economic downturn as the reason. Rita Rakestraw, the chair of the citizen’s group which has been fighting this plan for two years, sent Sprawl-Busters the following release: “C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against Residential Encroachment) is very pleased with this decision and the victory it represents for so many town citizens. There are many reasons people from all over objected to the development. Some citizens were concerned with traffic, some with crime, some with the environmental impact, and some with the sheer size so near residential homes. Many people could not understand why a new Wal-Mart was needed with one 3.2 miles down the road, and a new one nearly finished in Zebulon — let alone the fact we already have a very successful Wal-Mart in Knightdale. The Town’s own LURB (Land Use Review Board) cited many of these very things before rejecting the proposal. Some on the Town Council have already begun to blame us for revenue losses and other problems, but we strongly reject that notion. The Town’s flagrant disregard for so many concerned citizens’ wishes is what led us down this road. The people did not cause any loss in revenue, the Town did. It was their unwillingness to negotiate or compromise that forced this into the courts. No effort, in nearly two years, was made by the town or by the developer (Rick Rowe) to come to any kind of win-win type solution. With no good options ahead of us, town residents continued to fight in the only way they could. This effort was made to protect our property, our children, and our way of life — things every American would strongly fight for, just as we have. We hope that, in the future, the Town will show a stronger willingness to hear the voice of its constituency without the need for legal action. We know the developer thought a few (hundreds, actually) angry voices would go quiet, but they did not.” Now, the group CARE is the last one standing, and Wal-Mart is gone.
In August of 2006, Rita Rakestraw and CARE said in a statement to Sprawl-Busters: “We are going to send a message to Town Council that we mean business and this is not just a one man effort, but it’s the community that is standing up for their neighborhood and town.” The Town Council in Knightdale never did take that effort seriously, but sold the residents out for the lure of sales tax. Ironically, North Carolina is in the middle of protracted litigation, brought by Wal-Mart, over $33 million in income taxes that the state collected from the giant retailer. Wal-Mart is trying to get the money back, but the courts have ruled thus far that Wal-Mart owes the money. At stake is a lucrative tax loophole that Wal-Mart does not want to see closed. In addition to that, Wal-Mart’s foreign-sourcing of textiles and other manufactured goods has helped decimate North Carolina’s manufacturing base. So residents of North Carolina should have no love lost for Wal-Mart. Readers are urged to email Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen at [email protected] with this message: “Mayor Killen, Now that Wal-Mart has left you at the altar, its time to refocus on some of your stated economic goals for Knightdale, to ‘maintain and enhance the identity’ of your town, and ‘strive for a balance between residential and commercial development.’ Your population has grown dramatically since 1990, but you still are a town with less than 10,000 people today. It’s not how big you grow, but how you grow big that matters. Knightdale should consider putting a cap on the size of retail buildings, and keep future developments in scale with the history and character of your wonderful town. You already have plenty of Wal-Mart’s within easy reach. It would make more sense to seek businesses that make things, rather than just more companies that sell them.”