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Residents in Vermont Town Defeat Law Capping Size of Chains Like Wal-Mart
Associated Press ^ | April 6, 2005 | David Gram

Posted on 04/06/2005 4:34:15 AM PDT by billorites

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) - In a closely watched vote, residents decided against capping the size of big-box retailers to 75,000 square feet - an attempt to halt an expansion of the local Wal-Mart store. "I want a bigger Wal-Mart," said Jessica Caron, 26, a mother of three and a clerk at the Mobil gas station next door to the existing store.

The bylaw, enacted in December, was expected to produce a closer vote Tuesday but the cap was rejected 2,189-1,724. The turnout was 40 percent of 9,650 registered voters - heavy for a special election.

Workers had distributed thousands of handbills urging residents to support the cap and nix Wal-Mart's plans to increase its store to 112,000 square feet. The anti-cap campaign ran radio ads supporting its cause.

The victory for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. came after heavy advertising by Ohio-based real estate developer, Redstone Investments.

"I'm very happy for the people of Bennington, Vermont," said Redstone partner Jonathan Levy. "They took on Town Hall and showed them what they thought about the whole thing."

The local Planning Commission and Select Board studied the issue at length and unanimously supported the cap. Then, opponents of a cap collected more than 1,000 signatures to put the question to a town-wide vote.

Alicia Romac of the pro-cap group Citizens for a Greater Bennington said she wished the decision had been left up to elected officials. "It's special interests interfering with what's best for the community process, and I don't think that's really the best way to run a government," she said.

The political fight leading up to the vote brought out many of the familiar arguments about big-box retailers, with some voicing fears a larger Wal-Mart would drive out downtown businesses. Others said those businesses needed competition.

Wal-Mart has come under scrutiny around the country for its effects on everything from its labor practices to the health of other businesses in town and the traffic its stores generate. Last month, the company agreed to pay a record $11 million to settle federal allegations it used hundreds of illegal immigrants to clean the floors at its stores in 21 states.

In 1993, two years before the Bennington Wal-Mart opened, the National Trust For Historic Preservation put the entire state of Vermont on its list of the "10 most endangered places," proclaiming the state was endangered by a phenomenon it called "Sprawl-Mart."

Vermont made the list again last year when the National Trust said its "special magic" of historic villages and bucolic countryside faced "an invasion of behemoth stores that could destroy much of what makes Vermont Vermont."

The vote in Bennington, a town of 16,000 in the southwest corner of the state, was closely watched by lawmakers in Montpelier, where a pending bill would limit retailers statewide to 50,000 square feet.

A main sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, said he was rethinking his position and coming to believe the question should be left up to individual communities.

"I'm sure there are existing stores in Bennington that will no longer be in business in three to five years," he said. "My hat's off to Wal-Mart and the developer. ... It shows that the company will spend whatever it takes to locate a store where it wants to locate a store."

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Vermont
KEYWORDS: landuse; propertyrights; walmart

1 posted on 04/06/2005 4:34:15 AM PDT by billorites
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To: billorites
Interesting that in Vermont "the people" have become "a special interest" in the eyes of the political elite.

This was a plebescite and the bluenoses lost, as they should everywhere someone is trying to destroy the public's interest.

2 posted on 04/06/2005 4:58:10 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: billorites
Workers had distributed thousands of handbills urging residents to support the cap and nix Wal-Mart's plans to increase its store to 112,000 square feet.

Are these workers "workers" as in "workers of the world unite!"?
3 posted on 04/06/2005 5:02:10 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: billorites

so working people think having a bigger WalMart is fine, but the Republican in then capital wants to fight the Big Company - that ends the "Big Business" label of the conservative Republican party. WalMart is no different than SW Airlines in the idea that some things people want a choice about what they pay?

4 posted on 04/06/2005 5:07:21 AM PDT by q_an_a
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To: muawiyah

I guess Citizens for a Greater Bennington doesn't count as a special interest group.

5 posted on 04/06/2005 5:07:44 AM PDT by NotSoFreeStater
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To: billorites

Vermont is full of squirrels..............and I am referring to the people! What I'm sure the original settlers saw as a beautiful place has been turned into a gaydom of enviro-wackos, veg-heads, and communists all living in the cutest little B&B's don't you know...... If Canada offers twenty-five cents we should take the money and run!

6 posted on 04/06/2005 5:22:43 AM PDT by Doc Savage (...because they stand on a wall, and they say nothing is going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch!)
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To: Doc Savage
Many folks in Vermont would best be described as "working-class" or "swamp yankee."

Not everyone is a latte guzzling, Saab driver.

Bennington, Rutland and Barre-Montpelier are kinda decrepit old New England mill towns.

7 posted on 04/06/2005 5:35:10 AM PDT by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: billorites
"I want a bigger Wal-Mart,"

Me too. That way, most of the shoppers are there, and I can go to Family Dollar or Dollar General or Fred's and avoid the crowd. hehehe
8 posted on 04/06/2005 6:11:41 AM PDT by TomGuy (America: Best friend or worst enemy. Choose wisely.)
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To: aruanan
I suspect they were union people who have declared war on Wal-Mart what ever the cost. They have huge declining enrollment and are bleeding red from lost elections. Amen.
9 posted on 04/06/2005 6:26:40 AM PDT by gakrak ("A wise man's heart is his right hand, But a fool's heart is at his left" Eccl 10:2)
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To: gakrak

This I am glad to see,that capping Wal-Mart size was rejected. I lived in Vermont for ten years while my husband was a VP at Norwich University. Lordy, there's no place like Vermont. We're still working on our book: Only in Vermont. Has great gun policy, though. There is a saying there: If you can't succeed in politics anywhere else, go to Vermont. Thus, the poor state is burdened with Jumpin' Jeffords, Leaky Leahy, and Commie Bernie.

10 posted on 04/06/2005 10:16:44 AM PDT by dimmer-rats stealvotes
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