Wal-Mart will set up shop in Heber
Wal-Mart: welcome to Wasatch County.
Some citizens fought hard to prevent the big box from coming to Heber but in the end 52 percent of voters supported a referendum that allows the world’s largest retailer to set up shop.
Tuesday a 1,433-1,327 vote allowed retail outlets in Heber up to 150,000-square-feet in size. Now Boyer Company is working on a 70-acre mixed-use development at the intersection of U.S. 40 and U.S. 189 near Main Street.
The grass-roots group Put Heber Valley First, which succeeded in placing the referendum on the ballot, was against the mega-developer coming to town. The group formed when an ordinance that allowed big-box stores was passed by the Heber City Council. Put Heber Valley First members are concerned a Wal-Mart Supercenter would bring more crime and traffic.
So-called "predatory pricing" engaged in by the retailer will hurt local businesses and Heber’s rural character, members of the group claim on their Web site.
"Wal-Mart will go into a town, charge below cost until their competition is gone, and then raise prices," the Web site states. "Neighborhood businesses contribute to local charities, advertise in local papers, buy from local suppliers, utilize local professionals, pay local taxes and are often homeowners in the community."
But the group spent just a few thousand dollars compared to hundreds of thousands spent by the developer on "constant telephone push-polls, mailers every other day, full page color ads in the local newspaper and radio advertising," Put Heber Valley First organizer Matt Heimburger told the Associated Press.
But more shopping closer to home must have appealed to most Heber voters.
It’s more than a big-box store, Heber Planning Director Allen Fawcett said, explaining that Wal-Mart would anchor the development. "There would be multiple businesses in these smaller buildings," he said.
The Heber Planning Commission began platting roads for Wal-Mart Thursday evening at a meeting attended by about 25 people, some of whom wore anti-Wal-Mart T-shirts.
Boyer Co. hopes to fully complete the project in 2011 and intends to break ground in Heber next spring, Boyer Co. representative Wade Williams said.
Heber has long avoided chains or strip malls. Its largest retailer is a Smith’s grocery store at 60,000 square feet the size of a football field.
"I look at the results in a mixed way, we lost," Heimberger said. "A lot of people still don’t want it."
The City Council that approved Wal-Mart is also changing, the 38-year-old said. Three of the five members who supported Wal-Mart were replaced in the election by two newcomers opposed to large chain store development.
Heimburger criticized Boyer officials for trying "to buy the entire city lunch on Saturday." His group hastily erected a sign across the street reading, "There’s No Free Lunch."
Williams countered that "we served hot dogs and drinks. I’m not sure that’s buying the whole town."
"I should add that many people in Matt’s organization did come over and get a free lunch," Williams said.
The closest Wal-Mart to Heber is a smaller store at Kimball Junction that Wal-Mart officials hope to expand into a Supercenter with groceries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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