Residents in Miramichi, New Brunswick are taking Wal-Mart Canada to task for trying to locate on 12 acres of residentially zoned land. Homeowners in the Carroll Street and Jessiman Boulevard area say a 106,000 square foot Wal-Mart just doesn’t fit into a residentially zoned neighborhood. Residents say they suspect Wal-Mart wants to be located near to a mall in the vicinity. Mark Donnelly and his wife told the City Council that when they bought their home in Miramichi, “If I would have known Wal-Mart was going to be built in my back yard, I would never have bought a house on Carroll Street.” “There’s no reason to rezone residential land so Wal-Mart can go exactly where they want to,” Donnelly told the Miramichi Leader newspaper. “Let’s face it, Wal-Mart in a residential neighborhood is going to be an eye sore. Wal-Mart should look at other commercial zone areas.” At a recent public hearing on the rezoning plan, 20 people testified, but only 4 in favor of the plan. Local real estate consultant, and past president of the Greater Miramichi Chamber of Commerce, Herman Koops, warned the city to stop the haphazard development of commercial property, and to create a vision of where the city wanted to go over the next twenty years. “Don’t grab Wal-Mart because they want a chunk of cheap land,” Koops said. Mirmaichi has a central downtown core of commercial activity, and this kind of peripheral development in residential areas conflicts with the goal of reinforcing the downtown core. Proponents of the Wal-Mart have been circulating petitions, and sat in the front row of the recent City Council hearing holding signs that said: “Wal-Mart doesn’t need Miramichi. Miramichi needs Wal-Mart.” Opponents of the Wal-Mart said that was 50% right — the first part anyway. The next hearing on the Wal-Mart rezoning will be February 28th. The original application from Wal-Mart was submitted back in September. Wal-Mart’s public affairs coordinator told local officials that his company had been trying for over a year to find a location, but settled on rezoning residential land as their only option. ‘If there was an easier or better site, they would have picked it,” Wal-Mart said. Homeowner Donnelly replied: “Wal-Mart is a big corporation, where a million dollars is like pocket change. They can afford to make another location work.”
The local newspaper, the Miramichi Leader, was conducting a internet poll on the Wal-Mart rezoning issue. Local residents worried that Wal-Mart would use its workforce to influence the results of such a poll. “We won a similar internet poll done before Xmas with 70% against the rezoning,” one resident told me. For more information on Canadian battles against big box stores, search the newsflash page using the word “Canada”.