Once again, Wal-Mart has chosen a very small town with the wrong zoning, and is the process of pushing its way past local wishes. The following report was received by Sprawl-Busters this week: “Wal-Mart is in the process of purchasing, and re-zoning land in Park Rapids, Minnesota. Our population is 3,500, and they intend to build a superstore. We are a town that relies on tourism, and charm. There is a split in community backing between those who work at the factory jobs, and would like to see low priced shopping in town, and the business owners (many of whom will go out of business). We are business owners trying to fight silently for them to leave. We are starting by asking for zoning to be postponed 60 days at this Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, until we can get the results from an economic impact study. There’s a 50/50 chance of them voting yes. The mayor, and much of city council are pro-Wal-Mart.”
A moratorium is a good place to start, but if a developer has already expressed interest in a site, and has applied for rezoning, the paste is already out of the tube, and local officials will be reluctant to impose a time-out. If business owners continue to “try to fight silently”, they will go down silently. The public needs to hear from local business leaders about what’s in store for the local economy if Wal-Mart comes to town. There are certainly enough studies and books (see Reading List) for local business people to fight back, noisily. Too often local officials are so busy looking for the next new thing, that they totally ignore the existing base of retailers already invested in their town. When the big, national chains drain sales from the local merchants, the local opportunities to run a small business are drained also.