Too many anti-Wal-Mart people showed up this week at the Harrisburg, North Carolina Town Hall. The overflow crowd of more than 120 people forced the town board to postpone the hearing to rezone land to pave the way for a Wal-Mart and a Lowe’s. The plan calls for the consolidation of 5 separate properties into a 61 acre parcel. The developer has made totally misleading claims that the project will “bring $40-$50 million of additional real estate value, along with the creation of 600-700 new jobs” according to the Independent Tribune. This, of course, is a gross figure, and does not net out the real figures once you subtract the enormous town cost of services to such facilities, including police, fire, water and sewer infrastructure, plus lost jobs and revenues from other local businesses closing. Big box projects also do not enhance residential property values — just the opposite. Sprawl-Buster’s has received the following report from the frontlines in Harrisburg: “We just recently learned that a rezoning meeting was taking place that would pave the way for a Wal-Mart and Lowe’s to move into our small town of Harrisburg, North Carolina. On a couple of days notice, we were able to get enough people to go to the zoning meeting that we forced them to reschedule that item on the agenda to next month’s meeting, where they will get a bigger venue. We have 3,500 registered voters in our town, there are 3 Wal-Mart’s, including a supercenter, within 6 miles of town and 9 within 20 miles of our community. We are basically an upscale wannabee bedroom community of Charlotte and most residents want to maintain our “small town” feel. The next Planning & Zoning meeting is Sept 19, the Town Council is meeting the week before. We are running a poll, plus talking to residents. About 90% of the residents do not want the big boxes here. The problem is, we’re not sure about either our Planning & Zoning committee or our Town Council. This is an election year, with 3 of the 7 town council seats open with two newcomers running and a former member who resigned because of an embezzlement issue. The incumbents are all running.
One local resident summed up the anti-big box sentiment. “Harrisburg has always been a small town,” the neighbor said. “We have a lot of new growth going on and that has its benefits, but we don’t want to be Charlotte, we never wanted to be Charlotte. We can drive two minutes and go to a Wal-Mart.” Because this is a “rezoning” issue, local residents have a legal opportunity to seriously delay or kill this project. Rezoning is not a right, its a discretionary call by local officials. If the project does not meet the rezoning criteria, is can be challenged. For more information on what to do if you find out land is being rezoned for a Wal-Mart, see the book “Slam Dunking Wal-Mart” by calling 1-877 DUNK WAL. For local contacts in Harrisburg, contact [email protected]