After years of trying to push itself on this small community, and two losses, it appears that Wal-Mart has finally thrown in the cards in Saranac Lake, New York. Sprawl-Busters reported on June 7, 2006 that the Village Board had voted halt a rezoning process on land slated for a 121,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, but the retailer said it might look for another site. But an email today from the Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance (SAGA) says it simply: “As of 4:49 PM Friday, October 11 The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is reporting breaking news that Wal-Mart is pulling out of Saranac Lake. Updates are continually being reported by the Enterprise. It will probably be reported in tomorrow’s paper, perhaps with more details. It is important to remain skeptical of this new claim to be leaving Saranac Lake – remember they said after the village board voted to temporarily stop the process of rezoning of the sand lot that they (Wal-Mart) would not be able to build in Saranac Lake… and then they immediately started a massive PR campaign to sway public opinion in their favor. We really have no idea what Wal-Mart is up to as they are NEVER forthright with any community as to their plans… SAGA will continue with it’s efforts as it has been: 1) remaining vigilant as to any retail development proposals for the Saranac Lake area; 2) educating the public as to the impacts (positive and negative) of any retail development in the Saranac Lake area; 3) pushing for a retail cap appropriate for the Saranac Lake area; 4) pursuing appropriate commercial, retail, housing and industrial development for the Saranac Lake area.” What the newspaper reported today is that Wal-Mart has ended its purchase agreement with several landowners. “The deal that was on the table is dead,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the newspaper, noting that no other sites in Saranac Lake were of further interest to the retailer. Wal-Mart had options on two pieces of land, but needed an 11 acres “sand pit” owned by the village. According to one of the landowners, Wal-Mart’s letter terminating the deal said “it’s unfortunate that the political climate in Saranac Lake does not allow us to continue with this project.” When the Saranac Lake village board voted to stop the state’s environmental review process, efforts by Wal-Mart to rezone the land on hold. At the time, the board stopped the process so studies could be conducted to assess the impact of rezoning. Wal-Mart kept on lobbying, however, forming an “astro-roots” citizens’ group called Citizens for the Advancement of Retail Development (CARD), and giving the group lawn signs to promote its cause. The Mayor of Saranac Lake said he still wants to rezone the land to commercial, and that many other retailers are still interested — but a big box store is not what the residents want. “There’s no question that this community needs a retailer, that this community needs a class A grocery chain, and I can tell you I am working daily on it,” the Mayor said. “Several groups in the community are working daily in it to bring in intelligent growth, to bring retailers that will be part of our community in a way that benefits everyone and not a select few.” A second citizen’s group, called Save Saranac Lake Coalition had a suggestion for Wal-Mart: “Maybe Wal-Mart might be thinking of a more acceptable solution, because there are attractive sites downtown for a smaller store.” The group said it would continue to work against big box stores, and wants the village to adopt a cap on the size of buildings, which is becoming a very popular, and legal way, to stop sprawl with one sentence.
Sprawl-Busters has been writing about Saranac Lake since 1999. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by the name of the village. For stories on size limits, search by “caps.”