We reported on August 27, 1999 (see newsflash below) that the Chandler City Council had voted unanimously to turn down a proposed 212,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. At that time, the store was described by one City Councilor as fitting “an oversized foot into a shoe that’s just too small.” The enormous 22 acre project had been the subject of repeated opposition in Chandler for nearly two years. After the vote, Wal-Mart’s lawyer told the media that the company had hired a “litigation attorney”, and was considering a lawsuit against the city. The city’s Mayor, Jay Tibshraeny, replied: “If we get sued, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Now, Wal-Mart, the good neighbor company, is forcing the city to cross that bridge. According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star, Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court on November 4th. “The city has designed that site for commercial development,” said a Wal-Mart representative. “We met or exceeded all of the city’s requirements to build there.” During the site plan review, residents of Chandler complained that the superstore plus related retail development would decrease property values, increase crime in the area, worsen air quality, and create an unworkable traffic problem. The newspaper reported that the City Council will not back down in the face of a Wal-Mart lawsuit.
Here’s a lesson in how to be a corporate good neighbor: 1) propose a project so massive that 4,000 area residents sign a petition against your plan 2) hire experts to convince local officials that you have “met or exceeded” every requirement they could imagine 3) hope the City Council votes in your favor 4) sue them if they don’t. Wal-Mart will have to demonstrate that the City’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious”. By suing the city, Wal-Mart is forcing taxpayers to defend the decision to reject their oversized footprint. What you can’t get by regulation, try to get by litigation. “Wal-Mart stands ready to support your community,” it says in the Wal-Mart Community Resource Guide. Chandler is just another example of what the company will do if the community doesn’t support Wal-Mart.