Once again Wal-Mart is leading the way in demonstrating how good land use deals should be made in America. The Wichita Eagle reports this week that Wal-Mart had a deal to propose for officials in Wichita, Kansas. If city officials approve the retailer’s plans to build a superstore, Wal-Mart will buy extra land and give it to the city to use as a loading area for elementary school buses. Wal-Mart presented the quid pro quo at a meeting of the Wichita School Board. The land in question would be added to the Jefferson Elementary School campus. But, the additional land is contingent first on the city’s approval of Wal-Mart’s plans. “Wal-Mart would purchase property and deed it to the district,” a school official said. The parcel in question is only 300 feet wide, by 120 wide long. The school Principal said the Wal-Mart deal (in most communities this would simply be described as a bribe) would alleviate congestion where students are currently dropped off.
Nobody in Wichita seemed to blink an eye at Wal-Mart’s attempt at bribery. The land donation has absolutely nothing to do with the superstore deal. It was thrown in as an incentive. This kind of bribery is not unusual, and Wal-Mart has done it before, and will do it again. It suggests that cities like Wichita should hold out for more, like a new fire station, or an indoor swimming pool for the high school, or a new police cruiser. This is truly how land use should be determined, not for the health, safety and welfare of local residents — but by how much money a community can get out of the developer. No doubt the Wichita School Board will now be lobbying the Wichita City Council for their miserable little piece of parking lot that Wal-Mart is dangling before them. In return for this little dogpatch of land, Wal-Mart gets to build a store that will generate more than $100 million a year in sales. Not a bad little piece of bribery indeed.