In the good old days, when Sam Walton ran Wal-Mart, he liked to say that so many towns wanted a Wal-Mart, that “if some community, for whatever reason, doesn’t want us in there, we aren’t interested in going in and creating a fuss. I encourage us to walk away from this kind of trouble…Wal-Mart wants to go where it is wanted.” Under the new Walmartian management, it seems like “fuss” is their middle name. In the neighboring cities of Kennedale and Arlington, Texas, a proposed 208,000 s.f. superstore has generated a double fuss. According to today’s Arlington Morning News, city officials in Kennedale voted to impose a new zoning ordinance that will control where stores in excess of 50,000 s.f. can be located. It bans stores located outside the city from having parking lots inside the city. It also limits big box stores to two major highways. This move was taken by city officials because Wal-Mart’s superstore was slated for Arlington, with its parking lot falling over the border into Kennedale. Wal-Mart says that the new ordinance will not affect them, because they will be grandfathered in under the old ordinance. But Ted Rowe, Kennedale’s city manager, disagrees. “We have reviewed this with our city attorneys, and the fact is they do not get grandfather status.” This Tuesday Arlington City Councilors must decide on whether to accept a zoning deal for Wal-Mart, or whether they should accept the judgment of hundreds of Arlington residents who have petitioned them to kill the project, mostly on public safety, traffic, and land value issues. Arlington Council member Joe Bruner says he “understands the side of the residents who live out there. If the people don’t want it, maybe it shouldn’t be out there.” And Arlington Council member Rono Wright told the newspaper: “If I were Wal-Mart, I’d be worried. I think Kennedale may have a point. They’ve definitely taken a bold position.” During the pitch to Arlington, Wal-Mart apparently tried to play these two Texas towns off one another. The company suggested that if they didn’t get their zoning plan in Arlington, they could move their store to Kennedale, make it smaller, and spill the parking lot over into Arlington. The newspaper says this debate has become “an emotinally charged issue”, with the latest move from Kennedale just another sign of how far some communities are willing to go to pull the welcome mat away from Wal-Mart.
Neither Kennedale nor Arlington wants to live with just the asphalt end of a 208,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. Community leaders in both cities are also under mounting pressure from their own citizens to reject the Wal-Mart plan. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart was never too serious about “walking away” from “such trouble”, and the company seems to prefer to create a fuss. Or in this case, create two fusses. As a result, Kennedale elected officials have quickly tried to pass an ordinance that would prevent Wal-Mart’s parking lot from sticking into their community. They are one city that doesn’t want Wal-Mart to park themselves in town.