Recently, our fairly idyllic nook in the world has been brought into the real world with the request by Wal-Mart to expand their already large store of about 72,000 square feet to a whopping 115,578 square feet. This would make them the 2nd largest retail shop in the area, just a few hundred square feet behind Home Depot, and almost 63,000 square feet larger than either of the two existing grocery stores. Now, not that I love the Home Depot size and architecture, but at least at the time of building they were not located in the heart of a residential and business area plagued with gridlock traffic conditions, that make the traffic during the 2002 Olympics look like nothing at all.
I have tried to objectively look at both sides of this issue by getting opinions of others, and by reading as many of the articles and editorials about this issue as possible. Now, I will admit this is not an all-encompassing view and probably not without its biases, but it’s what I have and it is far better than putting my head in the sand.
I took a look at Wal-Mart and started asking myself questions. Is Wal-Mart a friend to our community? If they are then I can trust them to not let me down. They will be allied with me in my effort to make this the best place a person could imagine living, and they will support my community. Okay, to Wal-Mart’s credit, it brings in revenue and pays taxes, so there is support in terms of money.
On the other hand they have the ability and inclination to move into an area, and because of their vast quantities of money, undersell all other smaller business in the area driving them out of business. If other businesses go under we lose entities, which were also bringing in revenue and paying taxes, not to mention losing the small town personality we, who live here, love and feel is disappearing fast enough for other reasons.
The size of the proposed expansion would break all previous size limitations for retail space in the area. Those size limitations were negotiated, in part, to keep the inevitable growth from totally wiping out our natural setting. The proposed addition could and probably would add to the traffic nightmare that we already have at Kimball Junction. More cars mean more exhaust, more exhaust means more haze in the basin. More cars also mean more traffic and time waiting to move. That means more gas consumption, which at today’s gas prices could easily negate the savings to be had by shopping at Wal-Mart.
The current store has not been kept up to date to help keep the area looking good. Wal-Mart says it will fix it up if allowed to expand. Well that sounds like a threat — let us expand, or we won’t do our part to maintain our property. How does any of this support our community? We lose businesses, our small town personality, our clean(er) air, green space, and end up with more vacant retail space. With all of this in mind how can we trust Wal-Mart not to leave us with an even bigger, poorly maintained behemoth?
Some might be lured into believing that we can’t live without this entity, that they are just a terrific addition to our already wonderful world. The total impact, however, is like a cancer slowly wiping out all of the good things we have come to know, the smaller shops and their owners. Without these we truly will be dependent on Wal-Mart, and I can only wonder what will happen to Wal-Mart’s prices once they have no competition.
Wal-Mart has already managed to move its way into Heber, and is in the process of building. What need is there for two huge "big-boxes" in two such relatively small communities? Before our commissioners say yes to Wal-Mart, I would hope that at the very least they would put a five-to-ten-year moratorium on the expansion in order to observe the impact of the Heber store. This time could also be used to observe how well Wal-Mart works with the communities in maintaining its properties and developing programs that directly benefit our local area. These programs must include those that have it supporting, not squashing smaller area businesses.
Just like the bully in school, the "Big Box" mentality has become a part of our world, but that doesn’t mean either has to continue to be part of the norm. Just as we encourage our children to deal with the school bully, we need to deal with our corporate bully. Perhaps this is the time and place when the meek and mild mannered stand up to the Big Box and put it in its place. Who knows, if we are successful, this could serve as a great example for our children of what can be done to vanquish the human bullies of this world.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.