The residents of Harrison, Ohio may get the final say over whether or not they get a Wal-Mart supercenter. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that yesterday the Hamilton County, Ohio Board of Elections voted that a referendum on the future of a Wal-Mart store proposed for Harrison can go before the voters on the May or November ballot. That effectively throws Wal-Mart’s superstore plans 4 to 10 months off schedule. But this store is already years behind schedule. This controversial project has been in the headlines for several years. Sprawl-Busters reported on June 26, 2005, that the Harrison City Council rejected a zone change request to build a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. That vote came after a two-year battle against the retail giant. But six months ago, city officials in Harrison signed a “consent decree” with Wal-Mart, requiring the company to shrink the size of its store from 205,000 s.f. to 185,000 s.f., and to donate 20 acres of the 54 acre site to the city for a park. The agreement also called for Wal-Mart to put up $1.8 million towards the cost of a $6 million bridge to cross over Interstate 74. After the consent decree was announced, local opponents in Harrison began circulating a referendum petition, and got enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot. Wal-Mart promptly challenged the referendum before the County’s Board of Elections — but yesterday lost their appeal. Wal-Mart argued that the consent decree was an administrative matter, not a legislative matter, and that administrative matters are not subject to a referendum. But the citizen’s group and their attorney prevailed. Wal-Mart’s lawyer then announced that his client planned on appealing the decision to Hamilton County Court.
Harrison is a city with roughly 7,487 people in the last census. It has 9 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles, including 7 supercenters. So no one has to wander far to find a Wal-Mart. A supercenter in Cincinnati is less than 13 miles away. Residents have been blocking this store for more than 3 years, and
Wal-Mart stockholders should wonder why their company would waste that much time trying to get into a town with less than 8,000 people. The area is certainly not “under-served” by retail standards. If this store goes to the ballot, look for Wal-Mart to spend a fortune lobbying for votes. That’s how corporate democracy works: the one with the most money wins. Voters in Harrison will find out if their city is for sale to the highest bidder. For an earlier story, search Newsflash by “Harrison.”