Wal-Mart lost the first round in November. But will be back for the final decision in December. That’s the story from Columbia, Missouri, where the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-3 in early November to recommend rejecting a request to rezone about 30 acres at Fairview Road and Broadway for the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Roughly 100 residents opposed the project proposed by St. Louis developer Michael Staenberg, Columbia Realtor Otto Maly and developer Stan Kroenke, a member of the Walton family circle. Despite this vote, the final say belongs to the Columbia City Council, which is expected to take up the matter on December 20th. Part of the land is still zoned single family residential. During the hearings, the developer agreed to downsize the supersized store from 203,000 to 183,000 s.f. The developer tried to convince neighbors that this superstore would look different from traditional Wal-Mart superstores, but the neighbors did not fall for the deal. Residents argued the developers could add these improvements to a Wal-Mart built on the smaller, 17-acre parcel that’s already zoned commercial. Commissioners also heeded the public complaint that Wal-Mart would generate extra traffic that would make it unsafe for children to ride their bicycles in the area. The citizens group, Community First, which has opposed the project since early this year, submitted 5,000 signatures of people opposed to the project. Commissioner Mike Holden cited the track record of other buildings housing Wal-Marts in Columbia: “Wal-Mart has not been a good neighbor,” Holden said, noting incidents where Wal-Mart has been cited for causing sewage overflows on Columbia’s east side and storing items outside that fouled storm water. “Putting a Wal-Mart so far away from a highway is a big turnoff,” he said. Wal-Mart said after the hearing that if their 30 acre plan is rejected, they will build their store on the 17 acres that is zoned commercial.
Wal-Mart already has a number of “smaller” stores in Columbia, and a track record of not being a good neighbor, according to testimony at the hearing. The progression to a larger store simply means more of the same for Columbia residents, who turned out in large numbers to oppose Wal-Mart. But it’s not over until the fat company sings. For more stories from Missouri, search Newsflash by the name of the state.