Wal-Mart lost another one this week in a tie vote by Planning Commissioners in Fairfield, California. Sprawl-Busters wrote about Fairfield on April 29, 2006, when we reported that Wal-Mart wanted to transfer from their current location on Chadbourne Rd., in Suisun City, California, to the vacant Mission Village Center in Fairfield. There are 4 Wal-Mart discount stores within 15 miles of this site, so there is no market need for this project. But if local opponents are on their toes, the most aggressive lobbying now must begin, because the 5 member City Council has the final word. According to the Daily Republic newspaper, Wal-Mart took a dive on a 3-3 vote, and they now have 10 days to appeal to the City Council — which they always do. So the fate of their 201,000 s.f. superstore is on hold until the Council vote. The Wal-Mart vote took place last night. The Planning Commission took 4 hours of public comment last night, and three members were enough to reject the plan, which the city’s Planner approved. The planner told residents that his negotiations with Wal-Mart included “three or four times the number (of conditions) you would see” otherwise. But opponents were smart enough to understand that city planners use these projects to build up a resume for their next job, and they always claim they have forced the big corporations to make major concessions. The fact remains, the land in question in the city’s General Plan is slated for a mixed use of retail and residential. “Are we going to change our general plan to cater to the project or are we going to stand by the decisions that were made?” one Commissioner asked. Another commissioner who voted for the project told residents, “If we say no to Wal-Mart, I don’t see any others.”
To do land development, you have to learn not to jump on a bad deal — even if there is no good deal in sight. In the case of this vote in Fairfield, it ain’t over until the fat company sings. Wal-Mart will be lobbying the Council behind the scenes, and residents need to be very vocal about the fact that a huge supercenter 4 times the size of a football field does not fit into the land use plan for the city. A supercenter at this location is too intense a use, and is incompatible with nearby residential homes. Opponents need to secure the votes of 3 of the City Council members. Anyone opposed to the Fairfield Wal-Mart should go to http://www.ci.fairfield.ca.us/citycouncil.htm to see a list of the 5 city councilors with their emails and phone numbers. This case will be appealed, so its time to begin lobbying the Fairfield City Council.