The Planning Commission in Woodland, California has rejected Wal-Mart’s plans to expand its existing 127,453 s.f. store on East Main Street into a supercenter by adding another 81,207 s.f. The addition would increase the size of the Woodland store by 64%. The giant retailer was not willing to go along with the 7-0 vote against its supercenter by the town’s Planning Commission, despite the fact that the town’s Community Development Director determined the proposed supercenter is not consistent with Condition Number 27 of the 1995 conditional use permit, which says the store can’t be used to sell groceries or food which would put it in competition with other local stores. According to the Woodland Daily Democrat newspaper, permitted uses in the shopping center do not include price impact food stores, or warehouse “discount style” box grocery stores, such as Food 4 Less, Super K-Mart and Price Club/Costco. Conventional grocery stores or full service “neighborhood serving” supermarkets such as Albertson’s, Bel-Air and Raley’s are permitted. “We find that sufficient information has not been submitted to determine whether the proposed Wal-Mart is permitted under the Condition Number 27,” the town’s staff wrote. “Absent sufficient information, which we have specifically requested and Wal-Mart has chosen not to provide, we cannot make an affirmative finding at this time and therefore conclude that the proposed Supercenter is not permitted.” Wal-Mart responded to the town ruling by saying, “The Planning Commission decision is erroneous as a matter of law, is inconsistent with the Use Permit and Condition Number 27, constitutes an abuse of discretion, and is not supported by the record.” Wal-Mart said its supercenter is essentially a Super K-Mart with similar floor layout and product mix, with approximately 33 percent groceries and 66 percent general merchandise. Wal-Mart also said their Supercenter is different from traditional ‘neighborhood serving’ stores, because it is smaller in overall square footage and draws from a one- to three-mile radius as compared with a 30-mile radius of a Supercenter. “The basic issue from staff’s perspective is that the legislative intent of the original condition needs to be fully taken into account in determining whether the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter falls within the ‘price impact, warehouse discount-style box grocery stores’ or a ‘conventional full service neighborhood serving supermarket,'” the town said. “The proposed supercenter does not clearly fall within the categories outlined . . . These distinctions become important because the intent of (prior conditions)…was to address the conclusion that there was insufficient demand to support both a supermarket in the Southeast Area and a competing store at the Wal-Mart site, and such competition would likely lead to store closing and blight.”
The town of Woodland is using an existing agreement, known as a “conditional use permit” that applied to the land in question. The town is apparently concerned that if overdevelopment of this parcel occurs, like the creation of too much grocery store supply, it will lead to stores closings elsewhere, and the blighting of property. These economic considerations would, in turn, impact the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Woodland. This community is just another example of a California town raining on Wal-Mart’s expansion parade.