Walmart – The good, the bad and the neighbors

By Linda Bentley | May 13, 2009

Will new slogan, ‘Save Money Live Better’ sell Walmart to Cave Creek?

CAVE CREEK – What’s good about Walmart? Apparently, a good number of people like to shop there; it carries everything from alphabet soup to guns and ammo, at least in some locations; goods are generally inexpensive and their 24-hour Supercenters also sell groceries.

walmart meetingAnd, Tom Witt, who now lives across the road from the proposed 125,000 square-foot store on Oleson Road, was able to buy his house at a good price.

What’s bad about Walmart? Well, that depends on who one asks and where they live.

Even Witt, who knew about Walmart before buying his home, like most people, would prefer not to live across the road from a 24-hour Supercenter.

Then, down at the southwest corner of Oleson Road and 56th Street, Anneliese Goodwin, a Scottsdale Realtor representing a client in Ohio, said her client’s 2.5-acre parcel fell out of escrow upon news of Walmart locating across the road to the north.

One of the most frequently asked questions has been, “Why did Walmart purchase residential land when the town will have commercial land available in the annexation area a short distance to the west on Carefree Highway?”

Walmart Attorney Sean Lake has responded to that question by saying Walmart wants to own the property. The commercial land in the annexation area is state trust land, which the state said it will be retaining and will be offering commercial leases instead.

The 12-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, owned by the Bullington family, which is adjacent to the north of the Walmart property and already commercially zoned, is too small for Walmart.

The Bullingtons have also stated they wish to retain the land and enter into leases for development.

According to Lake, the proposed Walmart, at around 125,000 square feet, would be the smallest Supercenter in the state and is about 40 percent smaller than the Anthem and Scottsdale Airpark Supercenters.

What makes it a Supercenter? Supercenters carry groceries. They are also open 24 hours.
A 24-hour store means 24-hour lighting. However, Walmart representatives say the light standards will only be ten-feet tall.

walmart meetingDean Phillips, who also lives across the road on Oleson, says crime could be an issue and reports indicated Walmart makes more calls to police than even Circle K for theft.

Lake says that is due to Walmart’s zero-tolerance policy, a policy that helps keep prices down.

He also described Walmart’s no-idle policy at its loading dock, which is designed with a depressed ramp to buffer noise and make the trailer bed at dock level for easy unloading. Trailers are unhitched and left behind for unloading while empty trailers are hitched up and removed.

When someone said Walmart was no longer carrying guns and ammunition at many of its stores, Lake said that is a local decision made by store managers on a store by store basis.
The Tatum and Bell Walmart in Phoenix has eliminated its firearms department, while the Scottsdale Airpark Supercenter has not.

To buffer Walmart from the neighbors to the south, it will be situated 165 feet from its southern property line along Oleson Road, with plans to fill in that buffer area with landscaping removed from the building site.

Walmart seemed amenable to Phillips’ suggestion of building a wall set back at least 70 feet from Oleson to prevent crime from overflowing into their neighborhood, using vegetation to mask the wall from the neighbors’ view.

However, Lake did not appear to warm up to Goodwin’s suggestion that Walmart buy the properties across the street on Oleson and then Walmart could resell them at the Walmart-devalued price and keep the difference.

Since there were over 100 people in attendance, one man decided, since the community was already there, to move into the adjacent auditorium to have a community meeting about Walmart.

Generally, an open house benefits the attendees, allowing them to see what’s being presented at their own pace, whereas they can linger and ask questions pertinent to their areas of interest while passing by other areas, spending as much or as little time as they want.

However, that didn’t appear to the case on Wednesday, as people abandoned the open house lobby area in favor of listening to what citizens had to say.

The long, lingering question is whether or not Cave Creek learned its lesson.

When a store such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and now Walmart decides the demographics are right to locate a store in a specific area, it will locate a store in that area.

When citizens of Cave Creek chased away Home Depot, they didn’t chase them very far. So, Creekers still got a store they didn’t want, but it was built in Phoenix under Phoenix’s zoning ordinances to produce tax revenue for Phoenix.

So, once Walmart made the decision to locate a store in the vicinity of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, it will locate there.

Cave Creek residents need to ask themselves if they want the tax revenue this time or do they want to have the same store across the street in the same neighborhood ringing up sales in another municipality.

PHOTOS: Over 100 people turned out for Walmart’s open house last Wednesday at the Black Mountain Baptist Church to see architectural drawings, landscaping and engineering plans, along with aerial maps showing where the proposed Supercenter will be situated. Citizens then took over, ushering attendees into the auditorium for a “community meeting.”
Photos by Linda Bentley