Monday, March 08, 2004

Wal-Mart Will Be Back

CHADD'S FORD, Pa. -- On the road in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania, I'm typing on a laptop to make a quick post on last Thursday night's proceedings at the Boone Board of Adjustment, when Wal-Mart lost its bid to expand into a Superstore at its present location, at the expense of green space and parking. A few quick observations:

1. It's not so easy to intimidate the Boone Board of Adjustments, not like it used to be. Making quite an entrance into the Boone Town Council chambers last Thursday on behalf of Wal-Mart was quite a parade of "corporate suits" -- three lawyers (two of them from Raleigh, one of them a woman doing the "power click" on high heels, and one of them local bully Charlie Clement), one architect from Arkansas, and a civil engineer from South Carolina. But their preparation and their presentation seemed ... under-prepared at best. Which led at least one local observer to comment that Wal-Mart never intended to win its variance request. His theory is that they've got their eye on another location entirely and plan to use Boone's being mean to them over this first request as leverage. Don't know. But I do know that historically Wal-Mart DOES NOT GIVE UP, and generally they get what they want, eventually, somehow, despite who has to take a bruising. We'll see.

2. Board of Adjustment Chair Jerry Kirksey gave a little speech that got everyone's attention, because (a) he seemed to be speaking FOR Wal-Mart Corporation and (b) it was a not-so-veiled threat. Scott Nicholson in the Watauga Democrat paraphrased Kirksey this way: "Board chair Jerry Kirksey said he had traveled around the country and there's nothing worse than an abandoned building. He said an abandoned building not only harms the entire shopping center but often causes congestion elsewhere when a store moves to a new location. He also mentioned the store's economic impact." Kirksey appeared to be saying that Wal-Mart would abandon the present location, given a snub by the Board of Adjustment, and leave the hulking box to go derelict, thus punishing the town for the affront. But after delivering this threat, Kirksey voted with the (unanimous) majority to deny the variance. So what was up with this? It seems to be Kirksey's philosophy that we mustn't say no to big corporations, because they can turn around and punish us. Bull hockey!

For the moment, Boone has dodged the bullet, stood up to the Mega-Corp That Ate the World, and we can be glad we have what all the County Commissioners hate with a purple passion ... ZONING!

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