Sprawl-Busters received the following short report from citizens in Bath, New York who want to keep Wal-Mart out of their community: “One week ago Wal-Mart announced to the Town of Bath that it planned to build 150,000 s.f. Super Center. They submitted an environmental assessment form (EAF) and a site plan. They have not filed for a building permit. The store is proposed to be located along State Route 54, a two lane road, in the Town of Bath. The EAF states there will be an additional 880 cars per hour passing along this section of road once the store is operating. That’s over 21,000 cars in the 24 hours that Wal-Mart will be open every day.” This store would be three times the size of a football field. “We are excited to have the opportunity to bring a Supercenter to Bath,” a “senior public affairs manager” for Wal-Mart told the Star-Gazette newspaper. “Currently, residents have to travel nearly 20 miles to shop at a Supercenter.” Wal-Mart claims that the proposed store will create 350 jobs, most of them full-time, and will generate a “significant amount” of local tax revenue for the town of Bath. “We know that Bath residents shop at existing (Wal-Mart) stores even though they are significantly farther away. We know from our research that it will be a pretty big draw and a pretty successful Supercenter.” The retailer said approval could take eight months to a year. The town’s Supervisor in Bath told the newspaper it was “satisfying” that Wal-Mart has enough confidence in the town to undertake a project there. “It is my hope that the Wal-Mart development will make Bath a shopping destination and will serve not only the Bath community but also draw shoppers from outside the immediate area,” the Supervisor said. A member of the town board already indicated his support for the project even before the site plan has even been reviewed. “I know that some people immediately have some negative thoughts,” Board member Robert Lattimer said. “But I have seen Wal-Mart developments be very positive things for small communities.”
Developers learn to read very early-on how a community will react to their plans. In the case of Bath, it is clear that local officials are already ‘in the tank’ with Wal-Mart. They already have their bathing suits on. They have no idea how much of a ‘bath’ existing businesses will take when a superstore opens, but that is something Wal-Mart will not tell them about. The jobs and revenue figures Wal-Mart cites are all gross figures — not net. The 350 jobs figure is before you subtract out jobs lost at other local retailers. Anyone on the town board in Bath who thinks that Wal-Mart has done “very positive things” for small communities, has not been reading economic impact reports from the past decade. They might also ask themselves why there are so many communities bitterly fighting over plans like this, including communities in upstate New York? Just in the past year and a half, bitter battles have taken place in Ballston, Colonie, Angola, Monsey, Batavia, Lima, Amherst, Saranac Lake, Rotterdam, Cortland and Greece, New York. Perhaps officials in Bath should do a little homework, and contact these communities that worked hard to fight sprawl, because they knew “very positive things” would not happen. According to local residents, there is a town planning meeting scheduled for May 1st 7:30pm at the municipal building on Liberty St. Opponents should fight the decision of the town to be the lead agency for the State Environnmental Quality Review Act purposes — since town officials have clearly shown they have a predisposing bias in favor of Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart addicts, there are 4 stores within 27 miles of this location, including two supercenters. In fact, the supercenter in Painted Post, New York is only 17 miles away. For this reason, Bath will never become a destination point for regional shoppers — because those commuities around Bath has plenty of access to other Wal-Mart stores. Instead, a Wal-Mart in Bath will takes most of its sales from retailers in Bath, most notably existing grocery stores. For more background, contact [email protected] if you would like to get involved.