“I think we did everything we could,” commented Wal-Mart Attorney Bill Blackburn, “and it’s the city’s loss.” But jubilant residents of Richardson, Texas see it as Wal-Mart’s loss, when the City Council on Sept. 13th. rejected a plan to rezone land for a Wal-Mart supercenter next to residential property (see June 19th. newsflash below). “This was more than just a zoning case,” one Councilman told the Dallas Morning News. “What happened here was a supercenter that was too close to homes and a fear that could not be overcome. And it was a referendum on Wal-Mart, too.” The giant corporation lost the referendum by a vote of 5-2, leaving the land Wal-Mart wanted zoned for residential apartment. Wal-Mart waged a full scale campaign to try and win Richardson over, including the production of a 10 minute video tape touting the store’s attributes, and raising the spectre of low-income housing if the store was not built. The video was narrated by a woman seated in front of a Texas flag, and showed pictures of low-income housing liberally. In early May, Wal-Mart got its first sense of the debate when the Richardson Planning and Zoning slam-dunked the store 6-0 in front of 600 cheering Wal-Mart opponents. Last night’s vote was equally rowdy, despite the fact that Wal-Mart had blanketed the area with pro-superstore ads and brochures. Richardson officials tallied up 915 residents who expressed their opposition to the store, and 568 who wanted it. The Mayor of Richardson, Gary Slagel, voted against the Wal-Mart rezoning, and then urged area residents to work together in the future. Wal-Mart’s attorney put it this way: “I guess you could call this democracy in action.” And Wal-Mart was left out of the action.
Wal-Mart has lost its battle in at least five communities over the past several weeks, including Murphy and Richardson, TX, Eureka, CA, Chandler, AZ, Manhattan, KS. The company also just backed out of a project in Tucson, AZ. “The quality of life in Richardson has been preserved,” one resident told the Morning News, “because of the consideration the council gave to the wishes of the neighborhood.” When the neighborhing Duck Creek Homeowners Association voted on the Wal-Mart issue, the residents counted 343-3 to oppose the store. How many times will companies like Wal-Mart ask their shareholders to go against such odds in order to build one more monolith? When will Wal-Mart try to live up to the friendly image it pays $1 million every day in advertising to cultivate? Wal-Mart lost in Richardson long before last night’s Council vote.