It’s not been an easy stroll through the garden for Wal-Mart in Garden Grove, California. Last night, a crowd estimated at 100 people turned out to whack Wal-Mart’s weeds. A hearing before the city’s Planning Commission was called in response to the retailer’s proposal to build a two-story supercenter on Chapman Avenue. The proposal calls for Wal-Mart to tear down an empty Von’s department store. According to the Orange County Register, only three out of 16 people who testified had anything good to say about the plan. The project’s environmental impact report was issued about a month ago, and concluded that the 173,000 s.f. store would have little impact on the environment or existing merchants. That report was written by consultants hired by Wal-Mart. But the neighbors were not impressed. “We’re going to have trucks going up and down the street all times of day and night,” one neighbor told the Commission. Another resident said she worries about Wal-Mart selling guns and alcohol 24 hours a day, and the effect this would have on crime. As for Wal-Mart’s environmental report, she described it as “a foot-high pile of paper that says ‘everything’s fine. This was a report prepared by a consultant paid by Wal-Mart. What else are they going to say?” Several weeks ago city officials were given a commissioned report by a consultant on the future economic development of the city. One of the recommendations in that report was that the city try to attract ‘sales tax magnets’ like Wal-Mart. In California, sales taxes stay in the community where they are generated. This has fostered “cash box zoning,” where land use is dictated by how much sales tax it will raise — not whether the location or type of use makes sense or is compatible with surrounding uses. This project has dragged on for a long time. In April of 2006, the United Food & Commercial Workers union staged a protest over this proposal right after Wal-Mart announced its plans.
The Garden Grove Planning Commissioners will not vote on this matter, until their meeting in September or October. The Planning Commission’s decision is likely to be appealed by either party, and the issue will ultimately end up at the City Council. You can write your opinions about Wal-Mart to the City Council by sending a letter to: Garden Grove City Council, City Hall, P. O. Box 3070, Garden Grove, CA 92842. Address your comments to Mayor William Dalton and City Council. Or, you can call the Council and leave a message for them with the City Clerk’s office at: 714-741-5040. To email, leave an email with the City Manager at: [email protected] When you write or email, tell them: “Wal-Mart will be like a giant weed in Garden Grove. As it grows, other businesses in Garden Grove will suffer. This project is too big, and should be limited to the footprint of the old Von’s store.”