On August 3, 2003, Sprawl-Busters reported that City planning commissioners in Clovis, California had voted 3-1 for preliminary approval to a zoning change that would require conditional use permits to open super stores that are larger than 15,000 s.f. The zoning change was suggested by area merchants in response to plans for a 200,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. That was four years ago. Unfortunately, requiring a conditional use permit is helpful, but not a foolproof way to stop big box stores. This week, more than 200 people crowed into a City Council meeting room in Clovis for a public hearing on a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter that lasted six hours until 1:30 am, according to the Clovis Independent newspaper. The City Council voted to postpone a decision on the project’s environmental impact report. Small-business owners warned of losing shoppers to the Wal-Mart shopping center, which is planned for Clovis and Herndon avenues. Neighbors complained about increased traffic and pollution, and the Clovis police officers warned of an increase in crime. Testimony was also heard regarding the impact of the superstore on Old Town Clovis, the existing core commercial area. “When you build that super Wal-Mart, you’re going to destroy downtown Clovis,” one resident said. “You’re going to destroy the Clovis way of life.” Council members in the end voted to take up the environmental impact report on Oct. 15th. The project would sprawl over 50-acres, and would include 10 major retailers, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Petco, Old Navy and Ross Dress for Less. The Wal-Mart Supercenter would be 228,754 s.f. and would be open 24 hours a day. Wal-Mart already has a discount store in Clovis only 3 miles away, which would close. The developer told city officials that the Clovis’ population could handle two Wal-Marts. “They did the initial store 10 years ago,” the developer said. “The community has grown and they want to grow with the community.” He said Wal-Mart Supercenters in Dinuba, Hanford and Sanger, California haven’t led to the closing of other businesses. “I think it’s a lot of crying wolf that these things are going to come about,” he was quoted as saying by the Independent.
The city of Clovis is growing in two contradictory directions. On the one hand, Mayor Bob Whalen says he is excited about a “new neighborhood village” the city is planning for Clovis, that he says will be “smart and well thought out.” On the other hand, the city is contemplating a huge, regional-serving Wal-Mart supercenter that will leave the city with a dead Wal-Mart discount store to fill. The Mayor promotes Clovis’ “wide-open spaces,” but then fills up those wide open spaces with sprawl. The Clovis city staff is recommending that the Council approve the project, and the Clovis Planning Commission approved the project’s environmental impact report, rezoning and conditional use permit on August 23rd. The Planning Commissioners voted against the site plan, however, because of concerns over the 24-hour operations of the supercenter. Clovis Police Capt. Janet Davis asked council members to limit the operating hours to prevent overnight campers, require a uniformed security guard on the shopping center’s premises and demand shopping carts that stop rolling when they are taken from the center. Readers are urged to send an email to Mayor Bob Whalen and the City Council by going to http://user.govoutreach.com/clovis/. Tell the Mayor and Council, “Growth in Clovis may be inevitable, but protect your wide open spaces with smart growth, not Wal-Mart sprawl. One Wal-Mart is one more than enough for Clovis, and the proposed supercenter will shut down the existing Wal-Mart. Create neighborhood villages — not superstore sprawl.”