If you live in Saranac Lake, New York, you’ve got mail. Wal-Mart recently sent out a mailing to village residents trying to bolster more support for its second try to build a superstore in this picturesque, small community. But the Wal-Mart letters campaign may have backfired. According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, two out of the three of the village’s Trustees contacted, including the Mayor, were disappointed with Wal-Mart’s misleading representations. The mailer sent out by Wal-Mart is pretty much a standard feature of their public relations spending. The one in Saranac Lake boasted that a 121,000 s.f. supercenter on Lake Flower Avenue would “create” more than 200 jobs, $1.1 million in tax revenue for the county, and more than $200,000 a year in local property taxes. Enclosed in the mailing was a post card allowing residents to write back their support for the store. The front of the flier pictured an idyllic scene of a body of water, with hills and forest, while on the inside, was a large brown Wal-Mart. “I was disappointed that they chose to launch a marketing campaign technically even before they have presented a proposal to the community,” said Mayor Tom Michael. “It’s a pretty picture but it doesn’t show how they’re going to build on that site and what the impacts would be.” Another trustee who got the mailing was John McEneany, who told the Enterprise, “I found it to be a little tacky. They’ve had their representatives up here. The community is well aware of their plans. I saw it as just trying to gather their troops, so to speak, as opposed to addressing concerns. In other words, I saw it as a very one-sided promotion. They certainly have the right to do what they do… I think they probably should have waited, but this is America.” The mailing arrived just days before the Village Board is slated to discuss the issue of rezoning an 11 acre sand pit that is currently zoned residential, to allow commercial usage. Wal-Mart already has options on two properties on Lake Flower, but needs the village-owned sand pit to fit their supercenter. Trusee Susan Waters told the newspaper that the flier did not have the impact on her that the retailer might have wanted. “You get the impression that this beautiful lake would be replaced by this super store,” she said with a laugh.
Sprawl-Busters has reported that the Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance (SAGA), the same group that help defeat the first Wal-Mart proposal that came to this village (after Wal-Mart was defeated in neighboring North Elba/Lake Placid), has taken the position that the issue is not about Wal-Mart per se, but making sure the village maintains its small-town character. “It is about making sure any retailer or any commercial development that comes to town is an appropriate size, has an appearance that fits in with the character of our community and addresses costs for the additional infrastructure,” SAGA said. The town of North Elba now has a square-footage cap of 40,000 square feet for a single store and 68,000 square feet for a shopping center. “The ‘Anywhere, USA,’ corporate, big-box look is not acceptable in this community,” the group added. SAGA has decided not to oppose any retailer that meets the following criteria: is 40,000 square feet or less, or a total shopping center of 68,000 square feet or less; is attractive in appearance and develops the area using state of the art methods to minimize the environmental impact of the new structure(s) and parking lot, including light pollution; is located in a suitable spot; absorbs the additional costs of upgrading all the infrastructure that will be required of a commercial development. SAGA says it will take whatever legal measures necessary to oppose any retail store that does not meet these criteria.” For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Saranac Lake,” and “Lake Placid.”