Wal-Mart’s desire to build a supercenter on Baptist Road near the intersection of Interstate 25 has been stirring a good deal of controversy. And no matter what decision the El Paso County Board of Commissioners make in regard to the company’s request to rezone the proposed building site property, somebody’s not going to be happy.
If the commissioners approve the request, I’ll be one of those not-so-happy campers.
Why? Easy. I live off Baptist Road. And to be really honest, the idea of standing on my deck and having my view of the Rockies sullied by the roof and/or parking lot of a giant discount store stinks to high heaven. I bought in Monument to get away from urban sprawl, not to drink it in with my morning coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Wal-Mart’s right to capitalize on capitalism.
In fact, I personally appreciate a business model that works as well as Wal-Mart’s has. Selling low-cost products and allowing the general consumer to have more money in his or her pockets is fine by me. Some people may argue that Wal-Mart uses unfair competitive practices, but I say competition is good and “viva la capitalism.”
I just don’t want the king of discount merchandise and falling prices a stone’s throw away from my back yard, especially when there is a perfectly good, and correctly zoned, location half a mile north on Jackson Creek Parkway in Monument Marketplace. Am I playing the NIMBY (not in my back yard) card? Probably. But one of the perks of being a newspaper publisher is that I have a ready-made forum to express my views, and this is something that I feel very strongly about. I’m also quite certain that I’m not a lone voice crying in the wilderness here.
The Coalition of Tri-Lakes Communities also is opposed to Wal-Mart’s choice of locations. The group has raised a series of objections, all of which I agree with – some as a resident of the area, some from a business standpoint.
One cause for concern that the group is espousing is the impact a supercenter would have on traffic on Baptist Road and gridlock at I-25, which even now is no picnic. My morning commute to downtown Colorado Springs can vary from 15 minutes to more than 45, depending on what time I leave my driveway (that would be on the opposite side of the house from where I enjoy the view of the Rockies from my deck.) I can only image how much more “fun” just getting to I-25 would be with the added traffic of a 24-hour supercenter in the neighborhood.
Another concern I have is safety. According to the coalition, Wal-Marts in Colorado Springs average between one and three police calls per day. That’s one to three more than are currently received from the proposed construction site. And considering that someone was just shot and killed at a local Wal-Mart, I’m not sure I want to take any chances of stray bullets striking my wife, kids or neighbors.
On the business side of things, the coalition points out that because the store would be outside the Monument town limits, the town would receive no taxes to offset any potential problems. The impact in lost tax revenue (money being spent at Wal-Mart that would have otherwise been spent with Monument merchants) could be as high as $1 million, the coalition says. Given that the town only collects about $1.5 million, that much of a loss is unacceptable.
And while we’re on the topic of unacceptable cash flow, the proposed parcel that Wal-Mart wants rezoned is priced about $3 per square foot (possibly as low as $2.50) while the properly zoned area at Monument Marketplace is in the range of $6 per square. Multiply the difference by the square footage of a Wal-Mart supercenter and if the county commissioners approve the rezoning they would be giving a $4 million gift to Wal-Mart. Doesn’t make much sense to me.
There is a reason people move to Monument. Having a Wal-Mart on the corner is not one of them. Trust me, my Realtor never mentioned a potential supercenter as a selling point.
I’m not against growth (in fact, economic development is a core mission of the CSBJ) and I’m not anti-Wal-Mart. I just think there are better options. And I hope the county commissioners do the right thing and deny the rezoning request.
The Coalition of Tr-Lakes Communities can be reached at www.coalitionTLC.org/wal-mart.htm.
Publisher Lon Matejczyk can be reached at 634-3223, ext. 202 or Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com.