Roughly one month after being rejected by the small Illinois village of Plainfield (see 1/9/02 newsflash), Wal-Mart wants a second shot to have land rezoned to meet their needs. But the idea of a 149,551 square foot, 24 hour supercenter in the middle of their subdivision has left Citizens Against Rezoning (CAR) revving their engines. Cal Connors, one of the leaders of CAR, told the Chicago Tribune, “What is this? Double or nothing, and they keep trying until they win?” That’s exactly the bet Wal-Mart is making: keep insisting on rezoning until the village officials are worn down. Several days ago, the Village Board’s Concept Committee told Wal-Mart they could have another swing at the ball. Of course, Wal-Mart asserts it has made “signficant” changes in the first plan, such as moving the building slightly in the lot away from homes to the north, taking out the gas station, moving part of the detention pond, etc. Like moving the furniture around. But the company still retains enough land to expand the site later to 209,253 square feet, and add the gas station back in later. These “give aways” hardly amount to ‘significant’, but even more amazing is Wal-Mart’s rationale for coming back. “We did a random survey of 400 registered voters in Plainfield, and 75% were in favor specifically of this project. With such overwhelming support,” the company told the Tribune, “we went back to the engineers to see how we can make it work.” What an insult to the neighborhood, which is “overwhelmingly” against this plan. The company apparently did not release the survey questions, but this “popular mandate” has been used over and over again as Wal-Mart’s wafer-thin pretense for coming back for a second act: the people made us do it. You can just imagine Wal-Mart bursting into their engineer’s office waving the survey results hot off the PR firm’s press, and saying: “They want us! They REALLY want us!” It’s hard to believe that a company as wealthy as Wal-Mart would resort to such self- congratulatory drivel. Random survey, indeed. Do you imagine they surveyed many homeowners in the Heritage Meadows subdivision, that exists right in the line of fire? So now Wal-Mart is playing Double Jeopardy with the residents of Plainfield. Neighbors have hired an attorney and are ready to throw a few strikes of their own. The same developer that is promoting a Wal-Mart now, asked the Village Board to rezone the property from agriculture to residential less than two years ago. Now he wants to change it yet again. But what meets his need of the moment, may not fit the criteria in the Plainfield zoning code for granting a rezoning.
Wal-Mart is also peddling the voodoo economics that it will contribute half a million in sales tax to the village, plus a quarter of a million for local schools. Such figures are GROSS revenues only, and not the NET numbers once you subtract the discount merchandise and food sales that will be “captured” from other stores. Economic impact studies from across the country suggest that 60 to 80% or more of Wal-Mart’s sales come from other cash registers in town. One major motivation on Wal-Mart’s part could be the desire to put a little dent in the sales volume of the new Target store that just went in on the southwest corner of the same intersection. For more details on Wal-Mart’s double mistake in Plainfield, contact www.residentsagainstrezoning.org