The March 4th. page one headline in The Morning Journal was good news to many residents in Lorain, Ohio. “Wal-Mart Plan Shot Down”. Growing opposition to plans for a 150,000 s.f. supercenter in an existing plaza helped local officials reach an 11-1 vote against rezoning residential land for the project. The fact is, the Cooper Foster Park Road project is not properly zoned for what Wal-Mart wants, and any change in zoning is not a right, but a discretionary act. The developer, Carnegie Management, told the paper “it’s not over”. The project could be reconfigured to drop some elements, such as a plan to expand the Sears store and add other retailers, but the developer was clearly stung by the defeat. A Carnegie representative told the paper the rejection was “very short-sighted” and a “political cry for them” (whatever that means). The developer to the very end tried to entice city officials with the revenue gains the project would bring. “$170,000 in revenue in the city saves a lot of police and fire,” Carnegie was quoted as saying. Of course, the net impact financially of the project could look a lot worse than $170,000 after you subtract the cost of city services, like police and fire, to service the Wal-Mart plaza, plus the cost of lost revenues to the city from other businesses closing as a consequence of a Wal-Mart supercenter opening, especially to grocery stores. Although the developer claimed “Wal-Mart will be a good employer,” local residents organized to repel the store. The West Side Preservation Group collected nearly 400 signatures against the rezoning, and complained that residential property values would be hurt by the project. The developer promised a 50 foot buffer, and said neighbors would only see landscaping and a fence, not a store. But neighbors literally could see through that. “I have consistently voted against this type of project when it infringes on the homeowner,” said City Councilor Tom Urbanek, who has the project in his ward. Another Councilor said the rezoning would cause “undue property loss (of) value for those owners.” But as the developer said, “it’s not over” until the fat company sings.
For more background on the Lorain story, search this database by the name of the town.