It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Wal-Mart
By Wells Dunbar,
1:38PM, Fri. Dec. 8, 2006
After weeks on end of paint-drying bureaucratic tedium and yawn-inducing dispatches from The Zoning Zone so boring Jeff Jack himself wouldn't touch them if they involved a drive-thru porn and liquor emporium opening in the base of a 600-foot point tower on West Lynn Street, could next week's City Council meeting – the last of the year – finally provide any modicum of intrigue or excitement? Looks that way.
Thank God (or Wal-Mart) – it's the Christmas Miracle!
First and foremost in everyone's minds will be the big box ordinance's appearance before the council. Tentatively turning up at noon to demonstrate for its passage will be members from Responsible Growth for Northcross, the Wal-Mart foes presumably arriving in force and en masse. But the ordinance, now all but assured passage thanks to the controversy, is likely to have little effect on Wal-Mart's designs for the mall. Instead, barring a revelation along the lines of Toby Futrell and Betty Dunkerley being Sam Walton's illegitimate love-children, the victory Thursday may be entirely pyrrhic, having little effect on the company's plan. Instead, the continued outcry of the effectively organized neighborhood groups is their best weapon.
The greater irony may be this: if the swirl of allegations about city staff stalling out the ordinance are to be believed, saying their plan backfired is an enormously charitable understatement. While the ordinance has been close to many a LiveableCitizen's heart for some time, its multi-parcel approach (economic/traffic/local business) initially made it somewhat of a hard sell. Ask me to tell you exactly what it does – require conditional permitting for stores over 100,000 square feet – and I can do that. Ask me how it does that, and I have no clue. And I doubt I'm alone. Add in some actual reluctance to the economic impact component – not just from the Tobyocracy, but from council – and it's passage was anything but assured. Had the ordinance organically wound its way through the city earlier this year, I wouldn't be surprised if the thing died a quiet death of its own accord. But now, with the Bentonville Beast braying at the door, and Futrell flunking the smell test, big box is the season's cause célèbre. In the season of fruitcake, let's call it just desserts.