On March 24th, only one member of the Killingly, Connecticut Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center. The other four members of the board had 1.12 million reasons to vote against it. In a stinging rebuke, Wal-Mart watched as its plan for a critical 1.12 million square foot distribution center in this small Connecticut town went down for the count. Wal-Mart officials told the Hartford Courant that they would have to search for another site for their oversized facility. The defeat of the Wal-Mart distribution warehouse was helped by the fact the 350 acre parcel Wal-Mart wanted was not correctly zoned. The property was zoned for a business park, not an industrial park. The town’s P&Z said the town could find a higher use for the land than the low-paying jobs offered by Wal-Mart. The Chairman of the Town Council, who supported the Wal-Mart plan, dragged out the usual rhetoric about how Killingly would appear to be unfriendly to business because of this rejection, but the Council vice Chair felt just the opposite. “I think that the original zone change to business park was a real ray of hope for Killingly, that we could attract some real professional jobs,” Vice Chairman David Griffiths told the Courant. “I’m thrilled that the planning and zoning commission defeated the zone change.” Wal-Mart told the newspaper that Killingly’s relatively high unemployment rate was an attraction to them. “If you’re looking to hire 1,000 people, you don’t want to go somewhere where there is 1 percent unemployment,” the Wal-Mart spokesperson said. But another attraction might have been that towns with higher unemployment also are more desperate for any kind of development, and often do not feel they are in a position to be too picky about who comes to town. The real estate agent who put the 7 properties together for this deal, complained that the town had now left him with “an unmarketable business park” , but he indicated an appeal of the P&Z vote was unlikely.
This is a tremendous victory for local residents who fought this project. This distribution center is like beating 5 Wal-Mart supercenters at once, in terms of land size. The pressure on communities to accept these kinds of projects is enormous. Wal-Mart often asks for public subsidies to make these projects more palatable to the company, yet a number of communities have said no to such projects because of the mammoth size of the physical plant. For more background on the Killing of Wal-Mart in Killingly, search this data base by the name of the town. For the fate of other similar projects, search Newflash by the words “distribution center”. For local contacts in Killingly, contact [email protected]