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Wal-Mart tries to revive Rohnert Park expansion plan

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Wal-Mart, the giant retailer whose bid to supersize its Rohnert Park store by adding a grocery section was rejected by the city’s Planning Commission, has appealed that decision to the City Council.

The appeal states that the project is “fully consistent with the General Plan” and argues that the commission was wrong to turn down the project.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Angela Stoner, who represented the Arkansas-based company at the commission’s decisive April hearing, did not respond Wednesday to calls seeking comment.

Opponents quickly vowed to mount an assault on the application similar to the one that succeeded in April — arguing the expansion will push more workers out of jobs than it will create, and that any jobs that might be created at Wal-Mart would be low-paying jobs.

“We definitely are going to do a major mobilization for the hearing, and not just in the city, but in the county,” said Marty Bennett, co-chairman of the Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition, which campaigns for wages that pay workers enough to be able to live in the area.

The company’s environmental impact report said that the bulk of Supercenter shoppers would be “captured” from nearby competitors. Sonoma County-based Pacific Market, with a store about the size of the proposed Wal-Mart expansion, would be most threatened by the expansion, the report said.

The expansion would add about 32,000 square feet to the existing store, which sits on the west side of Highway 101.

The Rohnert Park council has 60 days to hear the appeal — unless both parties agree to an extension — and it can review only the same application and materials as the commission did, said Marilyn Ponton, the city’s planning and building manager.

She said the staff report to the council to be prepared to accompany the appeal will also analyze the correctness of the commission’s decision.

“We will discuss what their discussion was and what they voted on to deny and go back to assess how that relates to our code and discuss that with our city council,” Ponton said.

The planning commission, in rejecting Wal-Mart’s application, expressed concerns that the Supercenter would displace employees of competing groceries.

The commissioners, who unanimously turned down the application, concluded that the store would not conform to the city’s general plan, which supports grocery stores in neighborhoods and says “… Rohnert Park’s residential population can support only a limited number of supermarkets.”





9 Responses to “Wal-Mart tries to revive Rohnert Park expansion plan”

  1. Jared Brugger says:

    Just watch, next week when the Wal-Mart project comes up for a City Council hearing. The Council Chambers will be packed. But how many of those attending, especially the most militant, will be coming from outside to make it LOOK like there is a united groundswell among the citizens of Rohnert Park?

    Just like the recent riots in Oakland, where 75% of the unruly “protesters” arrested were not even from Oakland.

    Maybe IDs should be checked at the door for local addresses.

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  2. Steffi says:

    Hey, I have an idea. Let’s have a casino with a grocery store.

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  3. Steffi says:

    I guess nobody has noticed the Target has a grocery store now and it is growing all the time. I won’t be surprised to see steak and hamburger the next time I go in.

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  4. The real issue here is not about deciding for others where they get to shop. The planning commission and the city council have the responsibility to use their power to make decisions on how to best serve the interests of the public by taking care that only those projects that promote the common good of the community are approved. The planning commission did the right thing in unanimously denying Wal-Mart’s application for building a regional Super Center that would have darkened several shopping centers and driven good jobs out for low-wage Wal-Mart McJobs. The city council should accept the verdict of the PC and deny the appeal.We all should have learned a lesson from the collapse of Wall Street that began the Great Recession. Here’s the memo: THE ERA OF UNREGULATED CAPITALISM IS OVER

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  5. Ponderer says:

    OK – Walmart doesn’t pay a ‘living wage’ – but they must pay at least minimum wage. How many employers can you name that pay employees more than they absolutely have to? If we require any business to provide ‘living wage’ & benefits, it should be required of all employers. Does Target provide living wages? They are expanding to include fresh groceries now – why doesn’t anyone complain about them? I am an educated professional and hourly wages offered for my position have decreased 30% over the past 5 years, with no benefits offered – shopping at Oliver’s and Pacific Market is not an option for me. Safeway & Raley’s aren’t price friendly either. Well, Pacific Market does have amazingly low beer prices….

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  6. RP MOM says:

    And what Wal Mart offers is LESS than living wage!! So if living wage is a “joke” then what WM offers is an absurdity! JC- Thank you, you said it all. I hope you will speak at the City Council meeting – you summed it all up!
    SCLW doesn’t decide what businesses the citizens or anyone else patronizes. They do however give you information to make an informed decision. Any money that goes to WM goes directly to Arkansas and that helps the affordability in RP?? I don’t think so. We have all the grocery stores we need and we don’t need to line the pockets of WM- sending the local $$ to Arkansas.

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  7. Allen says:

    “Living wage” is a myth. No one can live on what they call a “living wage”.

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  8. JC says:

    To ‘EW’

    You gave up your right to decide when you did NO research on this project. Do you even live in Rohnert Park? There are already more supermarkets then the population can support.

    As a GROCERY MANAGER, I can tell you that this will ONLY have negative impacts on the community. HUNDREDS of people (that live here) could lose their jobs. People will have to drive FURTHER through the most congested area of town to get there. NO additional sales tax will be gained by the city. The profit (that has a TRIPLING effect on the local economy) from local stores like Pacific and Oliver’s will be taken out of the economy. You don’t get that tripling effect if you send the money to Arkansas.

    In other words, this is just BAD. Why do you think the Planning Commission was unanimous. Either your wrong, or the rest of the world is.

    How would you like it if you lost your job and you were forced to get a new one that paid half as much, you lost your benefits, and your boss is halfway across the country? Oh, and 200 of you lost your jobs and only 80 got rehired. (BTW, treating their employees like crap is how they can charge such low prices.)

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  9. E W says:

    Since when is it up to some “we-know-better-than-you” group like this ridiculous “Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition” to decide what businesses I get to patronize? I don’t want or need, and I certainly don’t trust, their view of the world anymore than I trust any group that hijacks the local political process to push a narrow, scientifically-suspect agenda. Their arguments about encouraging a “living wage” don’t hold water. They exacerbate the problem of affordability in Sonoma County by artificially reducing competition — the very driver of innovation, efficiency, and improvement in our economy. I know it’s probably a lost cause, but I strongly encourage the Rohnert Park City Council to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision.

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