Some residents in the small community (8,000 pop) of Grinnell, Iowa don’t think the city should have to annex more land just to help a landowner build a Wal-Mart supercenter on Highway 146. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recently voted “No” on annexation, but when their decision was sent to the City Council’s Planning Committee, the latter group sent it back asking for clarification of the reasons for turning down the request. So the Planning and Zoning Commission will take up the issue again on December 7th. The landowner has a deal arranged with Magnum Development from Omaha, Nebraska to build a Wal-Mart supercenter on the 24 acre site. A resident’s group, called “Citizens for Protecting the Jewel” immediately formed to oppose the annexation. The ‘jewel’ refers to the city’s downtown district. The group is pushing Grinnell officials to establish a moratorium on large scale developments to give the community time to develop a strategy for handling significant land changes. The landowner told city officials, ‘”No pennies have changed hands,” and that a Wal-Mart would only take half the land, which means the unlikely placement of a supercenter on 12 acres — which means a very small supercenter. Opponents cited the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which says that one of the city’s goals was to “prevent sprawl…along highway corridors outside the central business district.” Planning officials admitted that they are not mandated to annex land just because a landowner wants to make more money off his property. One of the citizens, Craig Cooper, told officials, “You have to know these guys are category killers, and they don’t come to be a partner. They come to send those dollars to the stockholders, and my community’s better than that.”
Very few residents spoke up in favor of the superstore. The main proponent was the landowner’s family. One resident at the Grinnell hearing uttered the classic Wal-Mart paradox. “There are so many places where Wal-Mart has been viewed as a real killer — but I love their clearances.” If Grinnell, Iowa accepts this larger Wal-Mart supercenter, there will be clearances, alright, and most of them will be in the downtown central business district.