Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Slam Dunk for Wal-Mart

A Wal-Mart Supercenter has just been approved for the small Wisconsin town of Monona, population 8,000. The Monona Plan Commission rejected the tired old arguments against Wal-Mart sucj as it "devastates downtown", "they're unethical", "they exploit Third World countries", blah, blah, blah, blah. The Wal-Mart haters really need a new playbook.

One interesting thing to note in this story: Wal-Mart is often accused of leaving "black" stores in its wake, but in this case, the Supercenter is being located on the site of two other vacant stores. My favorite quote is at the very end.

From the The Capital (Madison) News:
Monona mayor lauds Wal-Mart store approval
By Bill Novak
December 13, 2005

MONONA - The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is coming to town, and while opponents see a Grinch, supporters say the company will deliver 300 to 500 jobs in a big box just south of the Beltline.

The Monona Plan Commission voted unanimously Monday night to issue a zoning permit for a Wal-Mart Supercenter, with construction on the $19 million, 203,393-square-foot building expected to begin next spring on commercial land currently home to two vacant buildings.

The doors to the Supercenter should open in March 2007, according to Nathan Bryant, Wal-Mart's land development manager, adding that demolition of the existing buildings will start early next year.

The Plan Commission took three hours to fine-tune the conditions under which a zoning permit would be granted to build the bi-level Supercenter, but the final vote was 8-0 in favor of issuing the permit.

The vote to approve the zoning permit was the key step necessary to be taken by the city for approval of the massive project. No action is needed by the City Council, but the commission will still have more work to do later, such as approval of the store's signage.

Mayor Robb Kahl, chairman of the Plan Commission, was excited about what the approval will mean for this city of 8,000 people, especially for the area south of the Beltline, which has suffered since Kmart and the Sentry Food Store closed their doors.

"This signals the resurgence of the south side," Kahl said. "I already know of several retailers who are interested in moving to the area because of Wal-Mart. The area has been struggling in the past, but Wal-Mart will be a magnet attracting others to come here, so this is a significant economic boost."

Continental Properties, the property owner leasing the land to Wal-Mart, will pay $50,000 a year for 15 years to the city for such things as police and fire protection and infrastructure improvements, including a "roundabout" circular intersection at South Towne Driveand Industrial Drive to help traffic flow.

All the upfront costs incurred by city planners and staff have also been paid for by the retailer and landowner.

"This is the first time I can remember where the developer is writing a check to us rather than the other way around," Kahl said.

About 500 spaces of underground parking are planned for the Supercenter because of limited above-ground space. Customers will use elevators large enough for shopping carts to get purchases to their vehicles in the garage. The store will be the first bi-level Wal-Mart in Wisconsin.

Opponents of Wal-Mart coming to Monona made one last-ditch effort to persuade the commissioners to deny the zoning permit during a public hearing before the vote.

Brent Denzin of Midwest Environmental Advocates said more jobs in Monona would be lost than gained with Wal-Mart coming because of the economic impact on existing retailers.

"I think this will devastate the downtown of Monona," Denzin said.

Peggy Chung of Madison said Wal-Mart is "bad all around".

"They have unethical business practices, they take advantage of undeveloped countries and they undercut American businesses and retailers," Chung said.

Others supported having the world's largest retailer and the subsequent hundreds of jobs coming to Monona.

"This will be a tremendous benefit to my tenants," said Keith Decker, a commercial building owner with three buildings on Industrial Drive that total about 100,000 square feet, with about 30 percent now vacant. "I've had inquiries from potential tenants because they want to be where the traffic is."

Ed Folger of Madison said the Wal-Mart naysayers should butt out.

"If you don't like Wal-Mart, don't shop there," Folger said. "If you don't like their practices, don't work there. I'm tired of seeing that area be empty."
We'll be reading a story like this very soon in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

HT: Right Mind

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