Environmental concerns and the sheer scale of their proposal have sunk Wal-Mart’s plans for a 200,000 s.f. supercenter in Groton, Connecticut. Groton is the home of a US Naval Submarine Base, and the submarine construction facilities of the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. But this week Wal-Mart’s supercenter dreams got torpedoed. The developer, Konover Development, happened to choose a site located within a water resource protection district. The town’s Planning Commission found the proposal was all wet, and voted 4-1 last Friday to reject the superstore. The Planning Commission cited nine reasons for rejection, including inadequate storm-water management, and the handling of hazardous materials. The town’s planner told the Associated Press it was “the most involved project we’ve ever seen this close to a water supply.” Wal-Mart said it was disappointed by the decision, but inserted a threatening note by saying they thought the Planning Commission exceeded its authority. The developer is considering an appeal, a Wal-Mart spokesman said. Several Planning Commission members said the application failed to meet town regulations. One resident was quoted by the AP as saying the project would threaten the drinking water supply, overburden local roads, and lead to increases in crime and pollution. “The scale of the project was too big for the parcel planned,” he said.
You can pretty much mark on your calendar that within the next month, Konover will appeal this decision. But they will have to show that the town’s action was arbitrary and capricious. Courts are reluctant to substitute their judgment for that of local officials when interpreting their own zoning ordinance. So Konover will cost the town extra money to defend itself, but in the end, the only Wal-Mart supercenter in Groton will be in Davy Jones’ Locker. But before you start feeling bad for Wal-Mart addicts, there is already a Wal-Mart discount store on Gold Star Highway (which would have closed if this project had been approved), plus a Wal-Mart supercenter less than 5 miles away in Waterford, Connecticut. So Groton has more than enough Wal-Mart’s already.