Wal-Mart in the dark. It sounds romantic, doesn’t it? But if you live in Walpole, New Hampshire, keeping Wal-Mart in the dark makes a lot of sense. This small town nestled near the Connecticut River began organizing to stop Wal-Mart back in December (see Newsflash for 12/19/98). Lawyers representing a developer seeking to put a Wal-Mart in Walpole placed a zoning referendum on the March town meeting. But as of January 26, it looks like Wal-Mart has been rejected — and they don’t even know it. According to the Keene Sentinel, the real estate developer that was going to buy land on Route 12 to build a 109,000 s.f. Wal-Mart has now bowed out of the project. One of the owners of the land told the newspaper: “The folks in Walpole must have done their job. I don’t know what’s behind this — I assume it was the opposition in Walpole.” The developer told the newspaper that it was citizen opposition that caused him to withdraw. He also admitted that he had not yet notified Wal-Mart. For once, the company that keeps communities in the dark found itself on the short-end of information. Charles Cabot, a part owner in the property, said that he had been blindsided on the development deal, because he was told a “small shopping center” was planned for the site, not a Wal-Mart. “When we signed the purchase and sale three months ago,” Cabot said, “we had no idea that the buyer was a straw for Wal-Mart.” The developer described his problem in Walpole this way:”Ever try to roll a snowball uphill? Walpole’s a lovely town. I have no interest in putting in something the people don’t want.” Despite this withddrawal, the town will still have on the March 9th. town ballot a referendum asking for the land in question to be rezoned to permit large commercial development. The citizen’s group, Walpole Tomorrow, plans to organize a voter turnout to kill the rezoning plan. “This is the first round — there could be a series of attempts,” said group chairman Tucker Burr. “WE’re not at all exuberant about this just yet.”
Anyone wishing to let Wal-Mart know that their Walpole, NH plans are over, please go to their website and email the president. Tell Wal-Mart that the deal is off. And the last one out, turn off the lights.