Store Wars: How They Defeated Wal-Mart on The West-Side


The Next Generation:

How They Will Defeat Wal-Mart On The East-Side


By Jon A. Brake

"I’m concerned about the congestion in terms of traffic." This was one of the reasons the Manhattan City Commission voted two years ago to deny Wal-Mart a zoning change on the Johns land at highway 18 and Seth Childs Rd on the west-side of Manhattan.

Now it is being used to stop Wal-Mart from building on the east-side of Manhattan. But...the quote above is from a PBS Television program called "STORE WARS: When Wal-Mart Comes To Town.

In fact if you want to stop Wal-Mart from building in any community you can go to the PBS-STORE WARS web site and print off hundreds of pages that will tell you how to organize, and fight a new Wal-Mart.

Here is what the web site says about the film: "Every day a new megastore opens somewhere in America. But in Ashland, Virginia (population 7,200), a group of citizens takes on the world’s largest retailer along with the town’s establishment. STORE WARS follows the controversy that tears the town apart, examining in the process the impact of big-box stores on small town America."

The film and web site use material from other "fighters" such as "Sprawl-Busters." Both sites use Sprawl and Wal-Mart like peaches and cream. If you have one, you have to have the other.

In talking about sprawl the Store Wars site states: "Before World War II, the downtown district was a community’s primary commercial hub. Not only did most people shop at local businesses downtown, but the presence of offices, banks and libraries guaranteed traffic in town center. Downtown also served as an important part of an area’s social life. On weekends, folks would meet to window shop, eat at restaurants, and go to the movies."

Doesn’t that sound a lot like "We have to save downtown" here in Manhattan?

The site also says: "Sprawl has become an increasing concern for American communities. Due to poorly planned regional development, sprawl eats up prime agricultural land and open space, increases traffic and air pollution, drives up taxes and contributes to overpopulation."

Again doesn’t that sound like Manhattan? We don’t want "sprawl" so everything has to be built around the Town Center Mall. We need "open space" in new developments.

Manhattan has not grown to the North, East or South in the past fifty years and all of the new construction has taken place in a 1 mile by three-mile area on the west-side. That is not sprawl.

To fight sprawl the site recommends: "Enact town-serving zoning ordinances, requiring retail and service businesses to be certain size and to primarily serve those living and working in the area. Use local ownership as one of the criteria to decide whether to grant a permit to a new business."

Doesn’t that sound like the Manhattan Planning Board Monday night when they told Wal-Mart that maybe an 180,000 sq. ft. building would fit better on their property than the planned 210,000 sq. ft. building?

The STORE WARS site thinks Wal-Mart is using censorship: "Wal-Mart demands that hundreds of recording artists, primarily alternative rock, hip-hop and rap musicians "clean up" their lyrics as a condition of distribution, imposing what amounts to cultural censorship, and bans all music carrying a warning label. It also pulls magazines off the shelves that are considered too provocative." They also have a "site" on Wal-Mart censorship.

What is wrong with Wal-Mart or any other store removing such material from their shelves? If this newspaper were to start running photos that were too provocative, wouldn’t local stores have the right to say: "No Thanks".

Here what the PBS STORE WARS web site has for Teachers: "Welcome to STORE WARS lesson plans. These lessons will allow students to understand the various cost/benefit issues and problems that city planners and city officials in general face when approached with a major decision such as approving zoning for a big-box superstore. Students may also role-play persons involved in the Ashland, Virginia Wal-Mart story in a "talk show" forma, to demonstrate their knowledge of the implications of this issue as seen through the eyes of the participants."

Lesson One: "The impact of Big-Box Stores on Ashland, Virginia." Lesson Two: "Role-Playing the Ashland - Wal-Mart Story and Lesson Three: "Should We Let Them In? A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Allowing a New Chain Into Town."

In the end Wal-Mart built a new store in Ashland. Here is what was said: "Locals suggested that the council had no choice but to accept Wal-Mart after the corporation had met all of the council’s financial demands. The majority (of the town council) believed it had no other choice after Wal-Mart returned with its request and answered all of the town’s original objections."

To date Wal-Mart has produced more than 50 drawing of the Manhattan store at the City’s request. The Planning Board approved the Zoning change Monday night that had thirteen changes already approved by Wal-Mart. The Board wanted to vote "No" but they passed it on to the Commission.