By ALBERTA CARTER
Alberta Carter is a resident of Sebastopol.
Martin J. Bennett’s Close to Home column regarding the proposed Wal-Mart expansion in Rohnert Park used convenient and buzzworthy arguments about why he opposes the project (“Wal-Mart expansion a threat to transit-oriented development”).
Unfortunately, those arguments are not based in fact.
Bennett wants the public to believe that a growing business, new jobs and the potential for new sales tax revenue are somehow a danger to the city of Rohnert Park. In truth, the agenda of Bennett and his financial backers is not the well-being of the Rohnert Park community. He cares only about dragging the name of a longtime Rohnert Park business through the mud because its employees are not unionized.
His tactics are well-choreographed, but he failed to acknowledge the facts in his recently published opinion piece.
Bennett argues that expanding the existing Rohnert Park Wal-Mart store — a store that has been in the community for almost 18 years — would undermine transit-oriented development in Sonoma County. By expanding, Wal-Mart is not getting in the way of sustainability. In fact, it is encouraging it.
One of the objectives, as noted in the environmental impact report, is to “capitalize on the project site’s proximity to the planned Rohnert Park SMART station by providing transit, bicycle and pedestrian amenities to facilitate convenient and safe access.” Wal-Mart actually plans to add new amenities to make the store more appealing to folks who don’t drive.
Bennett also refers to an “analysis” by Robert Eyler, a Sonoma State University professor. Pacific Market commissioned this report, so it is not surprising that it would back up the viewpoints of those opposed to Wal-Mart. In the report, Eyler suggests that a number of regional and national vendors would be put out of business by Wal-Mart’s expansion. I doubt that Pacific Market is single-handedly keeping any of its vendors afloat.
The Wal-Mart store in Rohnert Park has provided affordable, quality goods to Sonoma County residents for almost two decades. At this time, customers like me are looking for new ways to save so that we can better provide for our families. The addition of grocery items — including local produce — would benefit members of our community most in need.
The true motivation for Bennett’s opposition to this expansion is a desire to prohibit competition and consumer choice. Hopefully, the Rohnert Park City Council will see through the facade and vote to approve the Wal-Mart expansion.
The council hearing on Wal-Mart’s expansion plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Rohnert Park City Hall.