Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Misplaced priorities: threatening Walmart if they don't open another store

(Photo by Marvin Lee.)

Today's Post tells us in "Gray to Wal-Mart: It’s all or nothing," that Mayor Vincent Gray threatens to deny Walmart stores building permits--not because two, maybe three of the projects, have significant problems in terms of how the sites will be developed, the lack of transportation capacity to serve the stores, and whether or not Walmart is committed to developing urban-appropriate operations and customer service practices--but because four Walmart stores aren't enough for Washington, DC, he wants Walmart to open a fifth store, in the Skyland Shopping Center in Ward 7. All or nothing...

From the article:

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray delivered an ultimatum in a face-to-face meeting with Wal-Mart officials at a real estate convention here Monday: If the chain wants to enter the District at all, it had better commit to opening at Skyland Shopping Center, the long-delayed redevelopment project in Gray’s home ward that he considers the most important development project in the city. ...

“They’re interested in developing four stores,” the mayor said in an interview after the meeting. “All of us said, ‘What about a fifth store?’ They hemmed and hawed, and it ultimately came down to — you have a choice. You can do five stores or you can do no stores.”

Wal-Mart does not require major zoning changes or subsidies to open any of its first four stores, but two are on publicly owned land, giving the city a measure of control. Gray indicated he would be willing to go so far as to nix the company’s requests for building permits on privately owned sites, even for neighborhoods where residents favored Wal-Mart’s opening.


Talk about focusing on what's important to the city's quality of life--not transportation, not urban design, not mixed use development in commercial districts, not mitigation of evident problems in advance of the opening of the stores--but that the city needs to see a commitment for a fifth store in the city, five or nothing!

Anyway, the Mayor has no legal standing to deny those permits. Land use regulations are a quasi-judicial process. If you meet the legal conditions, you get the permits. If you meet the legal conditions and don't get the permits, you sue, and eventually you win because it's a denial of due process and a violation of the Constitution.

I guess puffery makes elected officials feel important. But the misplaced priorities really suck. And in the end, if and when the boast doesn't come through, doesn't it make the person look foolish? Of course, maybe no one remembers.

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