Citizens in Shelbyville, Indiana (pop 18,000) are battling to stave off a Wal-Mart supercenter. The city already has a 70,000 s..f Wal-Mart, which is likelyk to shut down if Wal-Mart ever gets approval on a supercenter. Last December, the city’s Plan Commission turned down rezoning 39 acres of green space. According to local sprawl-busters, the property Wal-Mart now seeks to develop is at the eastern gateway into the city, and has partially been abandoned by Target for 15 years. It is an empty box. City officials like this location better than the original site, and say the reuse of a big box fits in better with their comprehensive land use plan, even though the scale of this building is off the charts. A portion of the property was once business/retail zoned, but it was changed to residential so that an apartment developer could use it. He never did, and so this 39 acres sits empty, a small agriculture spot – nothing more. Wal-Mart now wants it zoned back to commercial development. On August 19th, the Shelbyville City Council voted on first reading to approve the rezoning of the land for a 183,000 s.f. supercenter. There are three super Wal-Marts within 20 minutes of Shelbyville, each in towns of similar size. They all had regular Wal-Mart discount stores, and have “upgraded” to supercenters in the past 3 years or so. Shelbyville is only twenty minutes from Indianapolis, so many local residents have access to huge amounts of retail stores. Wal-Mart supporters argue that a superstore will discourage local community members from driving to other towns (including the three other Wal-Marts) for their shopping. Wal-Mart now has to appear before the city’s Plan Commission, A scheduled Plan Commission meeting has been delayed until September. “Unfortunately,” says one local activist, “the vast majority of the communality probably doesn’t understand the total economic impact the store gives to the community and can only identify with lower prices.” Wal-Mart has promised to give the community an “earth tone” store, which is about as significant a decision as which lipstick a woman decides to wear to go shopping.
For more information on the Shelbyville struggle to keep Wal-Mart out, contact James Burnes at [email protected] If Wal-Mart gets a supercenter in Shelbyville, the existing Wal-Mart will become “dark store” number 16 in Indiana, bringing the total dead space for Wal-Mart in this state to over 1 million square feet.