According to sprawl-busters in Longmont, Colorado, a Wal-Mart proposal to annex 27 acres of land for a new Supercenter was nixed this week on a divided 4-3 vote of the City Council. The supercenter discussion attracted a crowd of more than 200 people, and included at least 50 people testifying. The session lasted nearly five hours. Longmont Mayor Julia Pirnack, who supported the Wal-Mart, wanted the Council to fully review Wal-Mart’s proposal. But 4 Councilmen voted against allowing a full review, killing the application. However, Wal-Mart is free to come back to the Council with a revamped plan, and if the company is true to past form, they will be back. According to the Daily Times-Call newspaper, city planners opposed full review of the plan because a traffic study showed the supercenter would make traffic problems at the site location worse, not better. In Longmont, annexation requests are first reviewed by the City Council before they move on through the full city review process. If the council finds there is an “exceptional benefit” to the proposal, it moves on. If not, it receives only a minimal, legal review. Wal-Mart has told the city that it plans to vacate its current retail store to open a 220,000-square-foot supercenter. The newspaper says Wal-Mart stacked the Council meetings with “members of the ‘Wal-Mart family,’ local workers who came out to testify to the importance and quality of their jobs. Each had a prepared statement, most of which outlined their time with Wal-Mart, position, benefits and how their jobs help them daily. ” This is a typical Wal-Mart strategy — bring out your local workers to praise the company. Often these workers are “on the clock” when they testify. Their statements are usually irrelevant to the zoning or annexation issue at hand, since the happiness of Wal-Mart workers is not a zoning consideration. Wal-Mart opponents raised arguments about traffic, the potential to hurt local businesses and Wal-Mart’s reputation for using sweatshop labor on top of other issues. Wal-Mart currently has roughly 400 empty stores on the market today, most of them emptied out when the company moved a block or two away from an existing store, in order to build a bigger one. Wal-Mart has more “empty box” syndrome stores than any other retailer in America.
For contacts with local activists who fought the Longmont supercenter, contact [email protected] For more information on the tactics Wal-Mart repeatedly uses at the local level, order the book “Slam Dunking Wal-Mart: How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl.” Call toll free 1-877-DUNK WAL to order