Wal-Mart is not spoken here. That was the sentiment of what the Bourbon Times newspaper called a “capacity crowd” that turned out in Paris, Kentucky to foment an insurrection against a big box superstore. A group called Paris First has organized to stop a developer called Horne Properties from getting a rezoning on nearly 36 acres of land along a by-pass around the community. With a superstore and a bypass, its certain that the existing downtown of Paris would be hard hit economically faster than you can say baguette. The land coveted by Wal-Mart for a 173,365 s.f. superstore, however, needs to be rezoned from agricultural and residential, to commercial. Such a rezoning is a discretionary decision in the hands of the Paris-Bourbon County Planning Commission, and Wal-Mart cannot build without the rezoning. On July 18th, Paris First presented a 39 page argument against the store on the grounds that: 1) it is incompatible with the city’s Comprehensive land use Plan and 2001 goals and objectives, which call for the revitalization of downtown Paris and controls on strip development; 2) the land in question is designated in the Plan for commercial uses that serve adjacent residential areas only; 3) the use is inharmonious with existing land uses and residential zoning districts adjacent to the property; 4) the rezoning would adversely impact Paris’ Renaissance Main Street Revitalization investment; 5) the project offers no evidence of market demand, and exceeds the amount of new commercial land that the city needs, especially given the large surplus of undeveloped commercial land in the city today. Ironically, Paris already has a smaller Wal-Mart in this city of just over 9,000 people. The exisiting Wal-Mart is in a shopping center adjacent to this site, and is a sure bet to be shut down if the superstore is approved, leaving Kentucky with yet one more “dark store” as Wal-Mart calls them. Kentucky already ranks ninth in the nation for total empty Wal-Mart stores (16), with more than a million square feet of dead store space in the state. Wal-Mart did the same thing to nearby Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company has had a 104,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store sitting empty for at least three years. The Paris Planning Commission voted to put off a decision on rezoning until its next meeting.
The good citizens of Paris are ready to mount the barricades to stop this superstore, but Wal-Mart’s developer claims the company knows what’s best in building a second store. A representative from Horne Industries told city officials that Wal-Mart had a good handle on the current needs of Paris. “They are very motivated in bringing in a larger store. They have collected all the data, and made their decision.” That should lay to rest the issue of who’s running the show in Paris. Residents also have a good handle on what Wal-Mart will do to their land use plans and quality of life. “Putting a 35 acre strip shopping center in an area that adjoins existing residential areas…is not a compatible rezoning request,” Paris First testified. For more information on the Paris insurrection, contact [email protected]