Walmart faces hostile crowd during neighborhood meeting
By Linda Bentley | May 27, 2009
Architect concedes he’ll need to go back to address building height
CAVE CREEK – Even though it was raining, a good number of people packed the May 21 Walmart meeting at Cave Creek Town Hall about the Supercenter proposed for 20 acres to the south of the Bullington property at the southeast corner of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, bounded by Olesen Road to the south and 56th Street to the east.
The meeting was scheduled as a courtesy by Walmart, in addition to the required neighborhood meeting previously held at Black Mountain Baptist Church.
As Attorney Sean Lake attempted to proceed with the presentation, the chatter in the room caused one woman to interrupt and ask people to stop talking. She said, “I took time out of my day to come here and listen to what they have to say.”
Lake pointed to an aerial map of the neighborhood, which showed a superimposed outline of the proposed Walmart store.
He said it was slightly smaller than Lowe’s at 128,000 square feet and explained how it would be laid out on the site.
When people asked why Walmart bought residentially zoned land to locate the store, Lake said numerous studies were done and determined the location was at the epicenter of traffic that’s already going through the area and, for retail, he said, “It’s location, location, location.”
Anna Marsolo yelled out, “It was cheaper too.”
Lake said the site selection was based on what is happening in the area.
Addressing whether Cave Creek has a large enough population to support a Walmart, Lake said, “No,” adding the decision wasn’t based solely on the population of Cave Creek.
Architect Michael Quattrone was apparently under the impression the store would be situated about five feet below natural grade, as he explained the architecture and said the height allowed by code was 25 feet plus another five feet above the roof, with architectural elements at the front extending to 36 feet.
When Quattrone said he had a tendency to go on a bit, someone yelled out, “Boring!”
The attendees, turned hecklers, caused Cave Creek Planning Director Ian Cordwell to intervene and ask people to allow Walmart to finish its presentation and said, “You have my contact information. If you have comments, e-mail them to me.”
Engineer Brian Gillis stated the store would be built at existing grade without a built-up pad.
Explaining the peak one-hour traffic that passes through the intersection of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway is currently 3,400 vehicles, Gillis said by the year 2011, that number is projected to go to 3,900 and, with a store, to 4,200, or a little less than a 10 percent increase.
Gillis said the average number of vehicles passing through intersection averages 50,000 per day.
A man interrupted to say “Growth? There won’t be any residential growth with rezoning.”
People asked how many parking spaces there would be.
According to Lake, the town’s zoning ordinance requires five spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail, although the town could allow for a reduction in that number by up to 10 percent. It was later calculated to be 525 spaces.
One of the stipulations Walmart has agreed to is no overnight RV parking.
Lake proceeded to address the most frequently asked questions at the previous meeting, before taking questions from the audience, since some of their questions might be answered with the presentation.
He said this will be a 24-hour Walmart, it will not have a gas station and will not have a Tire & Lube or Tire & Battery Shop.
Will this Walmart sell guns and ammo? Lake said, “Most likely, yes.”
A woman in the audience blurted out, “Right next to a school?”
Lake assured her it met the necessary distance criteria.
Responding to whether any economic incentives were being offered to Walmart by the town, Lake said there were not.
The same woman who asked people to stop talking amongst themselves earlier got up and said all the people doing the presentation are from Walmart and are for Walmart and if they had something to say in opposition, this was not the proper place and said they needed to voice their concerns at the planning commission and council meetings.
Responding to a question about the number of deliveries, Walmart representative Delia Garcia estimated three per day, primarily for groceries, since it was a smaller store.
Lake reiterated the Supercenter designation has nothing to do with the size of the store but whether the store sells groceries.
Quattrone told attendees, “I’ll have to go back and revise the front of the building,” after he realized the proposed design exceeded the town’s height limitations.
A woman in the audience stood up to say she was an “affluent member of the community” and asked, “What will Walmart do to our property values?”
People in the audience, quoting from WalmartWatch.com said it would be around 30 percent.
The woman then asked if Walmart was going to compensate them for their loss.
Lake dismissed WalmartWatch.com as a biased union-backed website.
Their website confirms Lake’s claim. It states, “Wal-Mart Watch works with countless national, local, and international organizations who (sic) support and compliment our work …”
The list includes numerous organizations advocating “social justice” and “social change,” from the Sierra Club to the National Council of Women’s Organizations to Democracy for America to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Service Employees International Union.
When Lyn Hitchon stood up in the front of the room and said she wished to speak, Lake informed her, “This is not a planning commission meeting,” but asked if she had a question.
Hitchon demanded she be permitted to speak, which sent audience members into a chant of “Let her speak!”
Lake relented and, from a prepared statement, Hitchon said all the residents of Sentinel Rock Estates in Carefree were opposed to Walmart and stated when Lowe’s was built it was on commercially zoned land.
She implied the demographics were wrong and residents will not shop at Walmart.
Photo: In an attempt to restore order to a hostile crowd, Cave Creek Planning Director Ian Cordwell intervened during Walmart’s neighborhood meeting last Thursday and said if anyone had comments they should e-mail them to him.
Photo by Linda Bentley