US supermarket giant Wal-Mart is planning to build two stores side by side to get round a town’s planning limit on the size of its buildings, according to a report in the Washington Post newspaper.
Wal-Mart plans to build a 74,998-square-foot store cheek by jowl with a 22,689-square-foot garden centre in Dunkirk Maryland. The two Wal-Marts would have a combined area 30 percent larger than the 75,000-square-foot limit for a single store in Dunkirk.
“It almost points out the futility of municipalities developing ordinances and laws that restrict the size of stores,” said Kenneth E. Stone, professor emeritus of economics at Iowa State University, who has studied the company for 20 years. “There’s always a way around them, and an outfit as big and smart as Wal-Mart will think of a way.”
Mia Masten, community affairs manager for Wal-Mart’s eastern region, said she believed the Dunkirk site would be the first time the Bentonville, Ark., company will build two side-by-side stores in response to size restrictions. It is a strategy that Wal-Mart is likely to consider in other areas, she said.
“As these big-box bills come up, all retailers will just have to be flexible,” she said. “In this case, we developed a model that allowed us to reach our customers.”
“They’re like a slippery eel that won’t be pinned down,” said Robin Gottlieb, a leader of Calvert Neighbors for Sensible Growth, which lobbied for the big-box ordinance and now is fighting Wal-Mart’s newest proposal. “But we can’t let them get away with this. It makes a mockery of our county.”
Wal-Mart officials say there is nothing Calvert can do to prevent construction of the stores. Mark Davis, a lawyer for Charlotte-based Faison Enterprises, which is developing the Wal-Mart site, said the county can regulate only the size and nature of buildings. He said it would be illegal and discriminatory to create laws that regulate the owners of specific buildings.
Still, the county commissioners said Wal-Mart’s plan violates the intent of the regulations. Last month, they asked the planning board to delay any action on the Dunkirk plan so the county attorney can evaluate possible options to stop the stores.