After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to impress the local folk, Wal-Mart walked away last night without a single vote of support. Here’s a report from citizens on the frontline of the Ballston battle: “Tonight (August 1, 2006)the Ballston Town Council voted 5-0 to reject an application from Wal-Mart to build a 210,000 square foot supercenter. The proposed location, situated just outside the Village of Ballston Spa, was opposed by the majority of town residents. Individuals and a local grassroots organization, Concerned Citizens for Smart Growth, conducted an intense lobbying and public education campaign against bringing in the mega-retailer to this small community. It is likely Wal-Mart will resubmit their application or file a legal challenge against the Town of Ballston. Other large retailers, including Home Depot are also expected to file for approval to build in Ballston in the coming months.” According to the Albany Times-Union, the Town Council decision was greeted with “cheers and standing ovations from residents.” “You’re true to your word,” a leader of the CCSM told the Council, ” and it was the right thing to do.” Town Councilwoman Mary Beth Hynes was quoted by the Times-Union as saying, “I urge my fellow board members to join me tonight in sending an unambiguous message that, as far as the town of Ballston is concerned, the door will be closed to Wal-Mart and big-box development once and for all.” Residents complained that the scale of this project — four times the size of a football field — was inharmonious with the town’s comprehensive land use plan. Ballston’s Supervisor also testified that the town could not support an additional 12,000 car trips per day along Route 50. Ballston enacted a building moratorium in March 2005 to study the impact retail development would have on the town. That moratorium ended in June with a new comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance. But the new ordinance still allows big box development in Ballston, so residents are preparing for more battles — including a return engagement from Wal-Mart.
This battle in Ballston unfolded over roughly two years. Wal-Mart can now go back to its board of directors and explain why it took them two years and a large amount of money to get rejected in this small New York community. Had the company listened to what residents wanted, they could have saved both sides a great deal of aggravation and expense. But the “unambiguous message” sent last night to Arkansas is not likely to be heard. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Ballston.”