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WALMART IN MONROE:
Far from guaranteed
January 28, 2011
(MONROE, WA) -- A Walmart store coming into Monroe is not an in-the-bag arrangement by any stretch, says a group fighting the huge retailer’s planned 155,000 square foot store near the Galaxy Theater in the city.
Sam Wirsching, owner of Sam's Cats and Dogs, Naturally store in Monroe addressing the MPAC Meeting Jan. 27 in Monroe. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE
“Not a done deal” was the rally call heard more than once Thursday evening January 27 at the third meeting in Monroe of MPAC, Monroe Preservation Action Committee.
About sixty people showed up for a 7:30 pm confab in the annex of the Monroe Congregational Church on Lewis Street.
There group leaders outlined a slate of Walmart-fighting tools and strategies designed to slow down the behemoth retailer or stop it in its tracks.
Group leaders urged members to get the word out in the community to people who think Walmart coming into Monroe is a fait accompli, that that assumption is highly inaccurate.
Stashka Lepera, one of the now twenty committee members and the woman who led Thursday night’s meeting, said that everywhere where Walmart has been stopped around the country it has been because of grass roots community groups like theirs.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from a lot of people in other communities that have won,” said Lepera.
In fact it was reported this week that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. abruptly dropped plans on Wednesday for a new store near a Civil War battlefield in Virginia after two years of opposition from historians and local residents who opposed the plan.
Lawyers representing Walmart made the announcement in Orange County, Virginia Circuit Court at the start of a second day of arguments in a lawsuit to block the construction.
Walmart had planned to build a 143,000-square-foot “Supercenter” near the site of the Battle of the Wilderness, which historians view as a critical turning point when the Civil War started to turn in favor of the North.
Hundreds of historians, as well as noted filmmaker Ken Burns and actor Robert Duvall had appealed to Walmart to find another place to build in the county of less than 35,000 people.
Walmart spokesman William C. Wertz said the decision to abandon the Wilderness site came after several corporate deliberations over balancing economic and preservation concerns.
NO DONE DEAL IN MONROE: Petitions and more
“This is not a done deal. We would not be putting the hours into this that we are if it was,” said Lepera who noted that Walmart had put up its own website promoting itself in coming to Monroe (http://www.walmartcommunity.com/monroe-wa) with a section urging locals to contact “your local officials.”
Lepera asked why the largest retailer in the world would be asking locals to contact city leaders if Walmart officials thought that putting a store here was a done deal.
The group has already produced petitions for people to sign opposing the Walmart move and more members with more petitions plan to fan out in the community in the coming days and weeks.
Thursday night it was mentioned that one petitioning volunteer got close to 100 signatures in a two-hour period and only 8 people declined to sign it.
Some 1,414 people have registered on the no-Walmart-in-Monroe Facebook page.
WORSE TRAFFIC HEADACHES COMING TO HIGHWAY 2?
And for the first time last night MPAC broached the prospect that not just Monroe residents will be affected if Walmart’s presence has a bottleneck effect on the already over-capacity and under-funded (for improvements) Highway 2 in the Sky Valley corridor.
“You guys understand that if people can’t get through Highway 2 they’re not going to go to Leavenworth…so everybody on Highway 2 through Monroe up is going to be impacted – people in Sultan, people in Gold Bar, people in Index, all the way up the chain so just keep getting those petition signatures (out),” said Lepera.
The group says it has new projections that show the very day a Walmart opens its doors on that piece of Monroe land, U.S. Highway 2 traffic in the Monroe area will instantly be at a vehicle capacity level not expected until the year 2025.
According to the Washington State Dep’t of Transportation (WSDOT) the population in the city of Monroe almost quadrupled from just over 4,200 people in 1990 to almost 16,000 in 2005.
As a result of the population surge, average daily traffic through the city has almost doubled.
In 1990, 21,400 vehicles traveled on this stretch of US 2 each day.
Today, over 40,000 vehicles use this section of US 2 every 24-hours.
During an interview recently with SkyValleyChronicle.com, Tiffany Moffatt a member of Walmart’s Public Relations team was asked if she wanted to say anything directly to the community about the plans for the Monroe store.
She did not address any possible traffic impacts a large Walmart store at that Kelsey Street location might have on U.S. Highway 2 traffic.
The expected traffic problems are one of the key complaints MPAC has with a Walmart store going in on that piece of land.
THE SABEY SALES & PURCHASE AGREEMENT
MPAC also believes it can drive a wedge into Walmart’s plans via the sale contract Monroe city officials signed with Seattle developer David Sabey whose company purchased the Kelsey Street land and is now selling it to Walmart.
Sam Wirsching, owner of Sam's Cats and Dogs, Naturally shop in Monroe, said the more he reads through the sales contract the more he finds it was written “completely one sided for Sabey.”
SkyValleyChonicle.com placed a call to the Sabey Corporation’s media spokesperson this week for comment and clarification on the sales contract but the call was not returned.
MPAC has a contract attorney and two other attorneys poring over the document to find points of attack, one of which the group feels might be the competency with which citizens were represented by the city in the Sabey land deal.
Many in the group seem of the opinion the city did a woefully inadequate job of protecting the interests of the people of Monroe in the purchase and sale agreement with Sabey.
The group is also involved in fund raising to buy newspaper ads and has planned a rally for this Saturday to picket against Walmart’s plans for the city.
The rally will be held at 10:00 am at the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and Kelsey Street in Monroe.