Score another point for the Corporations-Are-People-Too camp. The town council voted to approve what I shall call a Wal-blart SuperDuperCenter not far from the Common Household, just off a two-lane road that travels through a major county park.
Several times during the contentious evening at the town council meeting, the Wal-blart representative said, “We just want to be treated like everyone else.” The procedure of a business applying to build a property was likened to someone wanting to build a house. Town council can’t reject a house-building project just because they might not like the person who plans to live there.
My thought to Wal-blart’s plea is just this: You aren’t everyone else. You are not a homeowner. You are not even a regular retail store. Wal-blart is a big box store, only more so. Bigger, boxier, and blartier.
I hate to think of myself as a person who wants to block progress, but I guess I am. The property is zoned for mixed use, and for ten years has had empty commercial buildings sitting on it. A long time ago, it was used as a motor oil tank farm. I should be thinking the town is fortunate to have a company willing to build there, because it really is ugly and useless now. Still, it is hard to think of Wal-blart as progress. I guess I prefer the eyesore we have now to increase in traffic that Wal-blart will inevitably bring through the park.
The town gave approval for a huge new shopping area last year, and already several big box stores (sporting goods, home furnishings) are in operation there, with more to come. That property, however, is on a major six-lane road, and much further than half a mile from the park. Two years ago, another local shopping area was developed on previously empty land, with a big-box home improvement store, and some smaller shops and restaurants. Right across the street from where the Wal-blart will be, there is already a grocery store and a Target. I’m not a retail analyst (I hope someone is), but that seems to me like too much retail already. Some of these stores will be going out of business.
Thinking about this store’s proximity to the park makes me sad. I fear that there will be a lot of extra traffic on the road through the park, which is a main connector road from a 4-lane road to the six-lane road.
I hope I’m wrong about all this.
The worst part is how the deal went down. John Q. Public just found out about the plans two weeks ago, hardly enough time to digest the idea. By the time last night’s meeting occurred, the town council had just one week left to issue its approval. This, more than anything else, made most people very angry. The town council is made up of educated citizens, most of whom have been on town council for 30+ years. They have done such a fine job in the past that no one thought to be scrutinizing their work. I think they did not realize that a project like this should have plenty of notice to the public. Informing the citizenry is a good way of getting some buy-in from wary people, and allows strong objectors to be fully heard. The way it all came out makes us feel that the whole thing is duplicitous.
The reaction of the citizens was at times embarrassing in its rudeness. There really was no need to shout down the two little old ladies who were brave enough to voice their support of the project. People attending the meeting would have been a lot more polite if the town council had gone about things the right way.
I objected, but only put up a namby-pamby fight, in the form of attending two town council meetings. Since the property was already zoned for mixed use, I felt there was not much legal reason to prevent the plans from going forward.
I’m trying to keep this in perspective. At least two little old ladies will be happy to get low-cost stuff. And there are several other worse things that could be installed on that property. At least these will Not be In My Back Yard: a casino, an opium den, a missile silo, a nuclear waste disposal site.