I found it ironic that this week's guest column from the Brainerd attorney representing the Coalition for Responsible Development failed to mention any sound, legal, rational basis for his assertion --- "It's not too late to stop a Superstore."
Forget about all the emotional rhetoric. The fact remains that the Wal-Mart Super Center plans are consistent with the 1996 Baxter Comprehensive plan, Title 10 of the City Zoning Ordinance, the 2002 Subdivision Ordinance, and the City's design standards. Perhaps he simply forgot the site in question has been zoned appropriately for this type of use for nearly 30 years.
He continues on about wages, benefits, and the need for an EIS to look further into social and economic issues related to the Wal-Mart Super Center project. And what sound, legal basis does he give as to why an EIS should be required? Because, his column states -- "The Brainerd Dispatch weighed in on the issue and supported an EIS."
The fact of the matter is that when an Environmental Assessment Worksheet was produced that did not provide opponents with any smoking gun for denial, they pushed for further studies. An expanded EAW was then produced by a third-party firm, selected not by Wal-Mart but the city of Baxter, and still showed no compelling need for an EIS.
Finally, in his column the attorney tells of his animosity towards big, national corporations and their wealthy owners. An outsider might think from his comments that Baxter was situated on a one-lane dirt road with no major business development. Perhaps he forgot the huge list of major NATIONAL chains (large enough to fill this entire page) that provide an economic stimulus to the local economy. Companies like Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Best Buy, Applebee's, Arby's, McDonald's, Cub Foods.etc.
And what about Cub Foods. Perhaps at the time of his guest column he was not aware that Cub Foods parent Company -- Supervalu -- announced it had just achieved sales of $5.8 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2004. Where were this attorney and his friends at the Coalition for Responsible Development when Cub Foods was building their second store and asked for tax incentives from the public to make it happen? Ironically they were nowhere to be found.
I will say that I agree with one thing in his guest column. His effort to encourage people to become involved in the development review process. This is democracy in action and citizen participation is the only way to make it work effectively. In Baxter, the public has been actively involved throughout the Super Center development application and the fact remains that Wal-Mart has thus far met all the guidelines and regulations. This is, and always has been, a land use decision. Unfortunately some would rather focus on the user and throw all legal, land use criteria out the window.
(Morris is community affairs manager for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.)
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