Just about two years ago, on November 7, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that the huge shadow of a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter had prompted citizens in Victorville, California to form a group to stop the project. The Citizens for Sensible Development (CSD) got organized to stop the Rothbart Development Corp of Los Angeles, California from building the proposed supercenter on the edge of their city. According to CSD, the city of Victorville is very pro-business, and is currently considering no less than three Wal-Mart supercenters within the city, plus two others in nearby cities. The specific location chosen by Wal-Mart is considered by many to be an inappropriate location.”We just think they’ve chosen a location that’s inappropriate,” CSD spokesman Scott Eckert told the Daily Press newspaper. “It’s huge,” Eckert said. “There’s nothing like it around.” CSD collected more than 700 signatures of area residents against the plan. The group’s main concern is the thousands of cars that would be added to the already congested area of Bear Valley Road and Spring Valley Lake Parkway. “The traffic problem is the least solvable,” Eckert said. “We don’t know what they’re going to do.” CSD also objects to the location because it’s situated near the area’s middle school and a junior high school now being built.” From a legal perspective, the strongest argument against the project is that the land Rothbart wants is not properly zoned for a superstore. The land is designated as “administrative/professional,” and Wal-Mart needs a zone-change approval from the city’s planning commission. Wal-Mart’s three site plans are pending before the Planning Commission. One is on the east side of Victorville, near Spring Valley Lake; another is on the west side of town near Highway 395, and the third location is at Dunia Plaza along Bear Valley Road. By taking a shotgun approach in Victorville, if one or two projects get shot down, at least one superstore will remain. Each project is expected to go through the California Environmental Review Act process, giving opponents more opportunity to legally challenge Wal-Mart’s “Three Amigos” in Victorville. This week, the High Desert Daily Press reports that the Bear Valley Road project came before the city council for a vote on rezoning the 13 acres Wal-Mart wants changed to commercial. What the developer wanted was to have the land rezoned as part of the city’s General Plan 2030 update. Opponents of the rezoning urged the Council not to approve the recommendation of the Planning Commission’s vote to rezone. The Council did not overturn their Planning Commission — but they did agree to CSD’s point that the land should be pulled out of the General Plan and considered separately. As explained by anti-Wal-Mart activist Scott Eckert: “We
were successful in getting 13 acres of Wal-Mart owned parcels removed from an almost slam-dunk approval to convert the land to commercial by including them (i.e., hiding them) in a massive general plan update for the city that almost went through unnoticed. We know there’s a big fight ahead but now our battle is more focused on the Wal-Mart project — not a general plan.” The residents were prepared to take legal action if the Council buried this rezoning in the general plan.
Victorville Mayor Terry Caldwell did not vote on the General Plan decision, because he owns stock in Wal-Mart. At its meeting, the City Council heard testimony from dozens of local residents concerned about such issues as the safety for nearby school children, increased traffic and the impact of a huge, 24/7 supercenter on the character of their neighborhood. The newspaper reported that five teenage girls, in matching jerseys and carrying signs that read “No on 2030,” walked to the microphone together. The girls used their collective three minutes to plead for the council to protect their safety as they run in the area, training for the Los Angeles Marathon. For now, opponents in Victorville have won a battle — but the war is still ahead. Residents opposed to the multiple Wal-Marts in Victorville know they need more than petitions to stop these developments. Without citizen opposition, the city would not doubt have already voted to pave over this area, and choke on its own retail saturation. These proposed Wal-Mart supercenters will cannibalize the existing Wal-Mart discount stores in the area. There are already two Wal-Mart discount stores within 5 miles of these Victorville locations, including one in Victorville itself. Wal-Mart has told Wall Street analysts that it intended to slow down the number of planned new stores. But the trio of stores planned for Victorville shows the absurdity of that promise. Readers are urged to email Mayor Caldwell in Victorville at: [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Caldwell, you like to recall the small town Victorville that you first experienced when you came to the city in 1963. Now you have the Mall, and the big national chain stores want your market. Yes, the days of the ‘one-screen theater in Old Town’ no longer dominate, but the time when the desire of people to ‘know their neighbors by name and a person’s promise was as good as gold’ have not left us. It’s possible to have a ‘successful business sector’ that is a diverse mix of local and regional stores — but if you do not carefully plan, Victorville in 2030 will just be a collection of the same box stores found everywhere else, and your distinctive way of life will be gone. You can’t buy small town quality of life on any Wal-Mart shelf, and once they take it from you — you can’t buy it back, at any price. Your citizens have raised issues of size, location and impact regarding this huge Wal-Mart propopal. They have raised issues about the safety of their children. I know public safety is an important issue to you. This superstore is totally out of scale with Victorville. Please tell your colleagues on the City Council how I feel. Thanks for taking their land out of the General Plan — but now’s the time to reject the rezoning. Rezoning is not a right — especially if it harms neighboring residential properties and public safety. If Wal-Mart wants to locate in your city, make them first look on a zoning map for land that is permitted for large scale retail. Make Wal-Mart fit Victorville’s plans, not the reverse.”