Wal-Mart has 12 supercenters in South Dakota, and 2 Sam’s Clubs. It also has one empty store in Yankton, S.D. Rapid City, South Dakota already has one Wal-Mart supercenter at 1200 Lacrosse, which is enough capacity for a city with 62,715 people. Rapid City boasts that it attracts more than 2 million visitors each year to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, and the Black Hills National Forest. Rapid City is also the home of Ellsworth Air Force Base, with more than 3,000 airmen. If Wal-Mart had been hoping for a rapid permitting response from Rapid City, their plans this week dropped into the slow lane. According to the Rapid City Journal, the Rapid City Planning Commission turned down Wal-Mart’s request to have less than half an acre of land rezoned as part of their plan to add a second supercenter to their presence in this city. The Planning Comission voted 6-2 to keep the land zoned park forest, instead of general commercial. Wal-Mart needs this little piece of land to make its 79 acre shopping center a reality. The project would sit on the corner of Highway 16. The developer, Whittingham & Lestrange, is no doubt putting on a full court press on the Rapid City Council, which gets the final say on the rezoning at its March 3rd meeting. The Planning Commission is not done yet with Wal-Mart. The retailer has to take its 79 acre subdivision plan to the Commission on March 6th, and they also need a waiver from city requirementrs regarding sidewalks at the site. This process to permit the second Wal-Mart has been going on since October of 2006 — so after almost a year and a half, the rapid response Wal-Mart wanted has long since faded away. In fact, Wal-Mart started off with this project three years ago, at a different location along Highway 16. The original site on the Sammis Trail actually was taken to the voters of Rapid City, who voted in a referendum to approve the second supercenter on Sammis Trail. But after enginering this referendum victory, Wal-Mart ended up having to withdraw its plans in July of 2006, because the retailer was unable to convince an abutting property-owner, and orthopedic center, to grant the store a small easement for a road behind the store. Without the easement, the project died. The original land Wal-Mart wanted was soon after sold to another party. But the developer bounced back with a second site in December of 2006. The developer calls this new asphalt and concrete sprawl by the picturesque name Dakota Canyon Market Place. The shopping center will actually sit on the top of a hill, and below the hilltop there will be land set aside as the “Dakota Canyon Nature Preserve.” The Wal-Mart anchor store would look down on the nature preserve. Neighbors to this out of scale project in the Enchanted Hills subdivision have testified that the project will generate too much traffic, harm property values, and disrupt their residential quality of life. Homeowners in Enchanted Hills do not want to be neighbors to a store almost the size of 4 football fields, which will be lit up and open all night long.
People in Rapid City have no more than a one or two mile drive to the existing Wal-Mart supercenter. A second superstore adds no value to the city. In fact, the second store will merely compete with the first, and have a negative impact on other area grocery stores. The new project will only add to the traffic and the crime in the area. According to Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks, “Rapid City is a vibrant and growing community of 60,000 progressive citizens.” The Mayor sees Rapid City as the hub for five states, including parts of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska, “who look to us for the finest medical care, air transportation, shopping, higher education and sports and entertainment.” Readers are urged to email the Mayor and the City Council at: [email protected] with the following message: “Mayor Hanks and Council, you are justifiably proud of the natural and man-made environment that attracts people to Rapid City. Your one Wal-Mart supercenter, however, is not part of that beauty. I urge you to follow the vote of the Planning Commission and reject the Wal-Mart rezoning, and keep that parcel zoned park forest. You don’t need more suburban sprawl. Protect what is unique about Rapid City. All another supercenter will do is compete with the first, and force more existing grocery stores to close. You have more than 4,300 people employed in retail trade, about 15% of your workforce. Adding more big box stores will not create new jobs — just shift sales from existing cash registers. Support your Planning Commission when this rezoning vote comes to the Council.”