On March 21, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that frustrated residents in Littleton, Colorado had decided to challenge a 4-3 vote in January of 2007 by their City Council to rezone land for a 187,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on 23.5 acres. A group called Littleton Against Wal-Mart needed about 3,000 signatures to force the city council decision to a public vote. The grass roots group pounded the pavement to gather nearly 6,500 signatures. The city clerk stopped counting after she certified there were more than the required number of certified signatures. This week, roughly six months after the City Council vote, the voters of Littleton have overturned their elected officials and tossed out Wal-Mart. The vote on June 19th wasn’t even close, with opponents of the Wal-Mart rezoning gathering 60.6% of the vote, 7,878, to Wal-Mart supporters’ votes of 5,128. Wal-Mart outspent the citizens by 3 to 1, but the retailer still lost the vote. Campaign reports show Wal-Mart spent $91,025, or nearly $18 per vote. Wal-Mart opponents raised $33,219, or $4.21 per vote. So the everyday low-price votes were not at Wal-Mart. “We have said from the beginning that the most important thing has been to give voters a chance to decide whether a big-box retailer should be allowed to build on property adjacent to South Platte Park,” Debbie Brinkman, chairwoman of the opposition group formed for the ballot question, “Littleton Pride, You Decide,” told the Denver Post. “Voters were given that chance and they said yes to preserve our park and our community.” In typical fashion, rather than acknowledge defeat, a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Post, “We’re going to reassess and hopefully come up with a project that works for us and all of Littleton.” What the retailer learned from the vote was that many residents wanted a Wal-Mart in Littleton. This initiative repeals the Littleton City Council’s vote and makes the current zoning now inappropriate. “The voters have spoken,” said a city spokeswoman, “and we respect their decision.”
The City Council vote originally was determined by only one vote. That vote cost the town $35,000 to hold the election. Opponents warned that a store of this size would bring unacceptable noise, light and loiterers from the 24-hour business. They also charged that the development would have a harmful impact on South Platte Park, a recreational and wildlife refuge west of the site. Wal-Mart tried to shape its argument around money, claiming that the superstore would generate more than $1.5 million in tax revenue for the city. Those inflated figures do not take into account the lost jobs and cost of providing the store with police and fire protection. In the end, money did not carry the day, as Wal-Mart’s expensive votes were few and far between. Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Gresham, Oregon all defeated Wal-Mart this week.