What part of “No” doesn’t Wal-Mart understand?
Sprawl-Busters first learned of a Wal-Mart battle in the small town of Ballston, New York in January of 2005. An activist from the group Ballston Concerned Citizens for Sustainable Communities wrote:
“We have been fighting for the revision to an eighteen year-old town master plan as the best way to fight off residential sprawl and big-box developers… We are just 20 miles north of Albany. Wal-Mart will be submitting plans for a new Superstore at the February 1st Town Board meeting.” A project to put in some office space outside of the village had changed to a 197,000 s.f. Wal-Mart.
On August 1, 2006, residents reported that the Ballston Town Council had voted 5-0 to reject an application from Wal-Mart to build a 210,000 square foot supercenter. The proposed location, situated just outside the Village of Ballston Spa, was opposed by the majority of town residents. Individuals and a local grassroots organization, Concerned Citizens for Smart Growth, conducted an intense lobbying and public education campaign against bringing in the mega-retailer to this small community.
After the vote to reject Wal-Mart, Town Councilwoman Mary Beth Hynes was quoted by the Times-Union as saying, “I urge my fellow board members to join me tonight in sending an unambiguous message that, as far as the town of Ballston is concerned, the door will be closed to Wal-Mart and big-box development once and for all.”
Activists said it was likely that Wal-Mart would resubmit their application or file a legal challenge against the Town of Ballston. Instead, it was the property landowners who repeatedly sued to overturn Ballston’s decision.
On March 4, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a New York state Supreme Court Judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart and landowners in Ballston, New York. The landowner sued the town when local officials turned down their Wal-Mart supercenter proposal for land along routes 50 and 67.
One year later, on March 27, 2008, Sprawl-Busters noted that landowners Frank and Marie Rossi were now three-time losers. They tried to use the court system to force a Wal-Mart superstore down the throats of their neighbors. The landowners tried to get the courts to overturn two local laws: the first in February of 2005 set up a six month moratorium on big box stores and large residential developments, and the second law in June of 2006 required a developer proposing a building larger than 90,000 s.f., or longer than 300 linear feet, or any site larger than 8 acres, to file for a Planned Unit Development District (PUDD).
One month after the town passed the PUDD ordinance, Wal-Mart filed plans for a 203,091 s.f. superstore on 30 acres. But the Appeals court ruled that the landowners failed to show that the town acted in a manner that was “arbitrary and unreasonable.” The court affirmed that the town’s PUDD law was “adopted for a legitimate governmental purpose.”
This week, almost 6 years after our last update, Sprawl-Busters received this message from residents in Ballston:
“We at Smart Growth Ballston have been fighting for 11 years. A year ago, a Wal-Mart developer returned with a PUDD that the town approved…sort of a bait and switch, promising ‘mixed use’ to match our Comprehensive plan. We have a pretty substantial following, hired a lawyer, did petitions, a poll, many letters, phone calls, all leading to a public hearing last night on Nov 20. We drew hundreds of people with signs and cogent speeches to speak against the seven slick suits from Wal-Mart and the developer. I think the Planning Board got the message. Almost no one spoke on behalf (except the hired guns), and those who did were rambling and ranting. We got coverage on every single TV news station, newspapers, and live streaming through Ballston Journal.
According to Time Warner Cable News, hundreds of residents packed the local High School. “When the company first proposed building in the Town of Ballston a decade ago,” Time Warner said, “the plan was for a larger store. Executives scaled back after neighbors raised concerns about traffic: concerns many still harbor.” “Anyone who has driven up through the village of Ballston Spa on Route 50 knows that you slow down. It is often gridlocked,” one opponent testified.
The Ballston planning board is the lead agency for the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). This review could take months. But Smart Growth Ballston has vowed to fight this over-scaled project as long as it takes. “We want to remind Wal-Mart that we denied them ten years ago, and we are not going away, not ever,” one opponent told Sprawl-Busters.
In 2005, when Sprawl-Busters first wrote about Ballston, there were 2 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Ballston. Now there are 8 Wal-Marts within 20 miles. There is clearly no need for more Wal-Marts in this trade area.
Readers are urged to call Richard Doyle, the chairman of the Ballston Planning Board at (518) 399-4734, with the following message:
Ballston has 8 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Ballston. When they first applied to build a store here a decade or more ago, there were only 2 Wal-Marts within 20 miles. We didn’t need a Wal-Mart then, and we certainly are saturated now.
If someone is addicted to cheap Chinese products, Wal-Mart is located only minutes away in Saratoga Springs. We don’t need the gridlock on our roads, the increase in crime that is drawn like a magnet to Wal-Mart, and the negative impact on our small businesses. A big box store is not what that PUDD district was created to achieve.
Sam Walton himself said, ‘If some town, for whatever reason, doesn’t want us to go in there, we’re not going to go in and create a fuss.’ A store three times the size of a football field is not compatible with the small town character of Ballston, with our population of less than 9,000 people.
No one outside of Ballston will come here–because they’ve got a Wal-Mart where they live already. The residents of Ballston should not have to fight this store another 10 years. Stop this once and for all.”
What part of “No” doesn’t Wal-Mart understand?