“Miracles happen,” according to San Marcos, California resident Steve Bennett. “We beat the biggest corporation in the world.” On June 11th, after six grueling hours of testimony before 300 residents, the city’s Planning Commission ended Round One of the battle against a second Wal-Mart in this community by voting 5-2 against the discounter’s plans. Wal-Mart seeks to rezone residential land to commercial in order to build a 139,000 s.f store on 20 acres of land near the Carlsbad border. The Chairman of the City’s Planning Commission told the North County News: “There wasn’t one person who wanted it in the community.” The store site, which is being developed by Brookfield Homes, rises above nearby residential homes, and the Planning Commission expressed concerns over the unmanageable traffic, and lighting at the site. Homeowners also complained that the project would alter the rural character of the neighborhood, have a negative impact on property values, and attract crime. “We don’t want Wal-Mart on that hill,” the Commission chairman said. Wal-Mart is no stranger to San Marcos, because they already have another store under construction in the city. The new plan on Rancho Santa Fe road is dubbed “University Commons” by the developer. Opposition to the plan was stated not only in San Marcos, but from the neighboring town of Carlsbad. Residents formed Citizens for Responsible Growth to battle the project, and turned out the troops in force to the Commission hearing. To curry favor with local homeowners, Wal-Mart offered to add “faux windows” and towers to the architect’s drawing. The company’s public relations rep told residents: “That’s a store quite frankly we wouldn’t have build five to 10 years ago. ” But residents would prefer a faux store, and hope Wal-Mart won’t build the store, period. The City’s Planners were some of the few people supporting the plan. This could be attributable to the fact that the city’s Mayor, Corky Smith, and a second councilman, apparently told the Union Tribune newspaper that they support the project. This is unsettling, since the proposal will not come before the City Council until June 24th. The Mayor, however, has made up his mind before the facts get to the Council. “We won this one, but we know this is only a recommendation from the commission, and the council is where the decision will be made,” the Tribune quoted Carlsbad resident and CRG member Jim Ristuccia, as saying. The developer told residents that the city had solicited him to build a Wal-Mart on the site.
Residents in San Marcos quickly organized when they finally heard about this deal, which must have been in the works for months before it was revealed. It is not clear what agreements were made between the developer and city officials, but the developer claims he was solicited to do the project. Was he also told the City Council would approve it? The Mayor now has to push this project through over the objections of the city’s own Planning Commission. The Mayor should consider recusing himself for have a predisposing bias in favor of the project. For more background, search this database by “San Marcos”.