Wal-Mart is very sensitive to local community needs, and wants desperately to keep local needs uppermost in its planning for store locations. That’s why City Council members were reportedly shocked when Wal-Mart rushed a zoning proposal to the city offices just three hours before the Council voted to put into place a moratorium on large scale retail developments. The Olympian newspaper described city officials as “stunned.” Wal-Mart wants to build a 207,000 s.f supercenter in between a Costco and Home Depot on Littlerock Road. One Council member saiud Wal-Mart “must have scrambled pretty darn hard to get their application in,” given the short notice time. Another Council member said he was frustrated with Wal-Mart’s last-minute filing under the existing zoning. “We’re going to create a nightmare for Tumwater because someone wants to throw a tantrum and insist we consider their application before the citizens have an opportunity (to review it),” the Councilor said. Tumwater Council members approved the ordinance, which blocks permits for retail stores larger than 125,000 square feet, despite Wal-Mart’s proposal. City staff now has 28 days to review the application, and if, for any reason, it is deemed incomplete, the moratorium will apply. “Nothing in (Tumwater’s plan for the Littlerock Road commercial corridor) anticipates acres of parking along that road, which leads me to think what we have is not a complete application,” one Councilor told the Olympian. Council members approved the ordinance by a 6-1 vote. The owner of two area grocery stores said that a Wal0-Mart supercenter in nearby Chehalis had had a significant impact on his business. “The Chehalis Wal-Mart had a devastating impact on me and a lot of other local retailers here,” the grocer said. “They go into an area and will undercut the lowest retailer. They don’t have a standard pricing. … You create a Wal-Mart economy.”
Wal-Mart is spending millions of dollars every week to convince the public that they are a good neighbor. But if the story of Tumwater gets around, their cover is blown. What kind of a company would desperately rush a proposal into the city, knowing that a few hours later the city was likely to vote to impose a moratorium on your kind of development? City officials are right to be stunned by Wal-Mart’s lack of neighborliness. Presumably Wal-Mart will not be stunned when city officials declare their proposal incomplete. Cities should be able to plan for their future without being intimidated by large corporations.