The community of Maplewood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, is about to vote on a massive sprawl plan that includes a 33 acre Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club combo. The project in its first phase involves the razing of 155 properties, mostly homes. Phase two take another 22 acres to build a Lowe’s on the property. The background on this controversy can be found at the 8/17/2002 Newsflash. At the heart of the controversy is a developer called THF, which managed to win a development contract from the city of Maplewood by out-bidding another developer. THF got more homeowners in the affected area to sell out to them than to their rival (enticing homeowners with a $1,000 sign on bonus). But some residents refused to sell out, and in July of this year they gathered nearly 1,000 signatures to put the retail project to a voter’s referendum. THF responded in typical developer fashion: they donated $125,000 to the YES committee. According to Missouri Ethics Commission financial reports, the YES group received 99.6% of its money from one citizen — THF. With that money, the pro-development group spent $8,700 on a public opinion poll, $35,500 on a telemarketing campaign, $12,500 on campaign staff, $31,527 on printing, and $2,895 on yard signs. During the month of September alone, THF spent $95,286 on the campaign — a rate of $3,811 every day of the 25 day reporting period. The citizens against the rezoning have raised less than $8,000, or 6% of THF’s corporate contributions. The residents fighting for their homes are being out-spent 16 to 1. To make matters, worse, local residents report that “Sam’s Club in the city of St. Louis is closing when the Maplewood store is being opened just less than 3 miles away and Wal-Mart is reneging on their commitment to the St. Louis City Market Place Shopping Center, which will still owe 10 million dollars in bond monies until 2011, even though
this shopping center is withering away. There is even a strong dose of corporate welfare to swallow here. The developer and Wal-Mart stand to gain from a $16 million taxpayer gift called the Transportatoin Development District. The money is raised by a 1% sales tax on all goods sold in this development, and the money is used to help construct the necessary infrastructure for the benefit of the developer. Thus Missouri shoppers have to cough up the money to subsidize the world’s largest retailer.
The residents write: “It is 6 days from the election and things are very stressful as you can imagine. We are very concerned about the outcome. Unfortunately, it seems like Wal-Mart has bought the votes. The development has been endorsed by our city, the school district, the local business association and endorsed by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It’s really a joke.” For more examples of tactics big box stores use during referendums, search this database by the word “election” or “vote”. For more information about the Maplewood vote, go to www.freemaplewood.com, or email: [email protected]