Residents in Thornton, Colorado have collected more than 2,300 signatures against a proposed Wal-Mart superstore at the corner of the new interstate 25 exchange. According to the Denver Post, citizens plan to saturate the city with petitions just the way that Wal-Mart is trying to saturate the city with stores. The proposed Wal-Mart would be located near a city golf course and upscale homes that surround the course. One angry resident wrote me, “The whole area around the golf course is upscale residential single-family dwellings in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. The residents of Hunters Glen and surrounding communities do not want the Wal-Mart store. It would ruin the value of our homes, mess up the serenity of the Thorncreek golf course, incrase traffic (particularly the large trucks) and just be a general all-around nuisance.” Despite taxpayers opposition, the staff who work for them, the Thornton Planning Department, voted to recomend the project proceed. The department released on March 12th a report supporting rezoning of the 50 acre site from business park to planned development. The project now moves to a vote of the full City Council on March 16th. The city has estimated the Wal-Mart will bring in $1 million in sales tax, but critics point out that is a gross figure, not a net figure. Opponents add the roadways cannot handle 10,000 new vehicle trips. Residents are also concerned the Wal-Mart will drive off bald eagles that have been seen around the golf course and that lights from the store will disturb the residents at night.A Wal-Mart spokesman said the community is going to be “pleasantly surprised” by the store, noting that the company wants the store to be a “prototype of neighborhood-friendly Wal-Marts,” the Denver Post reported. Wal-Mart has promised the store will be “uniquely designed”, using a stone, brick and stucco and interesting architectural features. “This is one of the nicer planned developments we’ve been involved in,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris. “… It looks more like a park than a standard development.” They said the store wants to leave open space for trail to connect with the regional trail system in the area. “I can just about guarantee you that the residents of (the neighboring subdivisions) will be shopping there,” another Wal-Mart spokesman said.
Wal-Mart often tells communities that its store is going to be “unique” or “special” compared to the standard box format found everywhere. Usually their uniqueness is only facade-deep. You can put a tuxedo on Frankenstein, but he’s still a monster. There is no way to buffer a residential community from a superstore. The city should conduct an independent appraisal (paid for by Wal-Mart) showing the impact on residential values if this store is built. There is nothing unique or attractive about a Wal-Mart superstore, no matter what building materials are substituted for concrete blocks. The only way to mitigate the damage, and to make the store “neighborhood friendly” is to significantly downsize the store to a truly neighborhood scale, say 40,000 s.f., on two floors. By doing so, Wal-Mart could free up several acres of green space, and become more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. The current plan is not a “neighborhood” prototype at all, but an “all around nuisance” as the residents now realize. For local contacts against the store in Thornton, contact [email protected]