On August 24, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had submitted plans to build a 176,000 s.f. supercenter in Waxhaw, North Carolina. There are already two Wal-Marts within 12 miles of Waxhaw. Local residents said that the superstore would increase crime, change the small town character of the community, and force other businesses to close. One month later, people opposed to the Wal-Mart supercenter in Waxhaw created a traffic jam to demonstrate how the project would snarl traffic in this small town of roughly 3,200 people. Residents said the traffic jam they created was about a mile longer than usual. From there, residents drove to the Waxhaw Planning Board meeting for a hearing on the store. The project ultimately needed the approval of the Union County Commissioners. Three and a half months later, residents in Waxhaw have emailed Sprawl-Busters with the following update: “The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners last night rejected the Conditional Use Permit for Wal-Mart in Waxhaw. We guess they can come back within one year, but a change was made to building limitations requiring retail buildings in Waxhaw not to exceed 62,500 sq. ft. This change was made after Wal-Mart made their initial application so they were exempt on this permit.” The Charlotte Observer reports today that the decision to reject Wal-Mart was by a unanimous 5-0 vote. The paper said the vote ended the “bitter debate over whether the retailer would shatter Waxhaw’s identity as a small-town enclave of antique stores and horseback-supply shops.” Wal-Mart responded to their loss by suggesting that they would simply look for another site in the area, but they are on the record saying they are not considering any other sites with Waxhaw. The parcel they chose on Route 16 was just half a mile north of the quaint Waxhaw downtown. The Commissioners said that the store was not compatible with the character of the surrounding area. They pointed out that the Wal-Mart (which was submitted at 196,000 s.f.) was five times larger than the next biggest retail store.
Wal-Mart has increasingly run into strong opposition in North Carolina — a state that has lost a significant number to textile manufacturing jobs due to the policy of big box stores like Wal-Mart to buy textile products in China and India. Wal-Mart is currently appealing a court decision against them in the town of Marvin, to the north of Waxhaw, and the North Carolina communities of Harrisburg and Pineville have also rejected Wal-Marts. The Harrisburg rezoning for Wal-Mart and Lowe’s was rejected in December of 2005. A cap on the size of stores will effectively keep Wal-Mart from locating a superstore in any area governed by the cap. For local contacts in the battle against Waxhaw, contact [email protected]