DULUTH (AP) -- It only took rumors of a Wal-Mart store planned on Lake Superior's North Shore to get residents reeling.
In a testament to how much resentment even the mention of Wal-Mart can generate in a place that prizes its uniqueness, dozens of Duluth and North Shore residents have started planning for battle with Wal-Mart or any other big-box retailer that tries to establish a beachhead there.
"The North Shore is one of the few popular areas left that hasn't been turned into a sprawl area," said Laurie Johnson of Duluth, one of the founders of Local Initiative for a Vital Economy.
LIVE sprang up earlier this year after what Johnson admits were only rumors that Wal-Mart wanted to build a superstore on Highway 61 on the northeast edge of Duluth, where the North Shore begins.
"I . . . have learned enough to know that a rumor today could mean bulldozers in your back yard tomorrow," she said.
Members of LIVE and other people have been lobbying town boards and city councils along the shore to enact zoning restrictions that would make it difficult for corporations to build superstores. They argue that such stores kill small businesses, impoverish workers and take profits out of the community.
"People come here for lakes and woods," said Ed Shaw, chairman of the Coalition for Responsible Development in Brainerd. "If we make this area too ugly, they'll go elsewhere."
Although there no superstores trying openly to build in Brainerd, Shaw's group thinks it's only a matter of time. The coalition, which formed in March, is urging city leaders to limit the size of such stores and to require economic-impact studies when they are proposed.
"I don't think people drive up here from the metro area to shop at Super Wal-Mart or Target," Shaw said. "They see that all the time at home."
Not everyone dislikes the idea of a new big-box retailer. Struggling communities see possibilities for growth as retail hubs.
Donald Kuznia is so eager to sell his property along Highway 61 in Lakewood Township that he had his real estate agent call Wal-Mart. He said the company responded that it wasn't interested because the property doesn't currently have access to water or sewer lines.
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