Wal-Mart’s plan to build a supercenter in the North End of Dubuque, Iowa seems to be heading south. The company says locals are “short-sighted” in their criticism of Wal-Mart. This week, according to the Telegraph Herald, the city’s Zoning Advisory Commission voted 7-0 against rezoning industrial land into commercial, blocking the supercenter plan. Traffic was one obvious drawback. “The impact that the applicant would have with respect to the traffic would be too intense for this property,” the commission chairman was quoted as saying. But the commission also admitted the public opposition to the plan had influenced their unanimous dissent. The final say is in the hands of the City Council, which takes the matter up Feb. 17th. Because the Zoning board gave Wal-Mart a thumbs down, the City Council can only approve the rezone with a “supermajority” vote of at least 6 members. Wal-Mart lamented that they had not been able to explain their plan more thoroughly before it was shot down.
“If I had my druthers, I would see that we had the opportunity to explain this project in more detail before the commission, and members of the commission and the council for that matter” said John Bisio, Wal-Mart’s regional spokesman. Several City Council members have already tipped their hands that they don’t want the property rezoned. To add to their troubles, Wal-Mart has already made it clear they need a federal or state subsidy to redevelop the property. Wal-Mart told the newspaper that it is willing to make a $20 million investment in the former meat packing site. “You are talking about Wal-Mart being a company, and probably one of the only companies willing to make an investment like that in that area,” Bisio said. Yet the retailer says they can’t do the project without another $3.6 million from taxpayers. “Just because you are the world’s largest company does not mean that you can pay any price to make any project happen,” Bisio was quoted as saying. “We are a company that makes three cents on every dollar. We are not some high margin business.” The Telegraph Herald said Bisio complained that citizens have been very short-sighted in their criticism of the company, especially with concerns that Wal-Mart will drive out other retailers. The company already has one store in Dubuque on the west side, and some local residents fear that this west side store will be closed when Wal-Mart opens the North side supercenter. With the federal deficit balooning, why would federal taxpayers want to help a store that made nearly $7 billion in profit last year?
In the newspaper’s editorial , they scoff at the idea of Wal-Mart needing federal welfare to build the Dubuque store: “Why should Dubuque spend its hard-earned money to help a company with annual sales in the neighborhood of $240 billion? That would be crazy.” The Telegraph Herald concluded: “If any company in the world could afford to pay its own way, it would be Wal-Mart.”