Residents in Tucson are breathing a temporary sigh of relief this week, as the official word came out in Tuesday’s Arizona Daily Star that Wal-Mart has decided to drop its plans to locate in the El Con mall. According to neighborhood activist Chris Tanz, Wal-Mart said that the project “didn’t pencil out right.” It didn’t take a sharp pencil for Wal-Mart to see the writing on Tucson’s WAL: the City Council later this month will be considering ordinance changes to require big box retailers to pass through a higher level of scrutiny than in the past. City Councilman Jerry Anderson has indicated that the city needs to look at the impact of these big stores, and that the stores should be required to pay for such studies. Tucson currently does not have a major development review process in place for large scale projects. Objections to the El Con Mall come from abutting residential property owners, who balked at plans for a Home Depot/Wal-Mart power center. With Wal-Mart out, neighbors are still left with a Home Depot to worry about. Two weeks ago Home Depot filed for a building permit. Meanwile, the owners of El Con told the paper that they were keeping the light on for Wal-Mart. “A tenant mix which includes Home Depot and other stores of that nature is very compatible with current zoning,” the owners said, “and the location of El Con within the community.”
“We’re rejoicing that Wal-Mart isn’t coming in,” said Tanz, “but we are still worried about Home Depot and whatever else the mall wants to put in.” It’s now up to the City Council to put some teeth in their ordinance, to prevent inappropriate development from taking value away from residential property that abuts commercial zones. Then Tucson residents would have good reason to rejoice. For similar “incompatible” zoning cases in recent weeks, see the entries below for Richardson, TX and Manhattan, KS — two communities that would not let Wal-Mart locate next to a residential zone.