Let me begin by stating that I am no fan of WalMart, I do not shop there and do not care who does or doesn’t. I am only interested in fair and reasonable discussion of any issue that has a bearing upon a community.
I am a former resident of Fircrest and, my daughter lives there now. As a former Environmental and Land Use planner for Pierce County, I have dealt with WalMart for new locations in the South Hill Area. During my year plus review of the WalMart currently under construction at 168th and Meridian Avenue I worked with groups similiar to yours that predicted the most dire of consequences should a WalMart be built in or close to their community.
I received hundreds of letters predicting the most dire of circumstances should the application be approved. In every circumstance the detractors could not substantiate claims of children being able to buy alcohol, drug dealers being able to buy the ingredients for methamphetamine production, gun and tobacco sales to minors, “the wrong kind” of people “infiltrating” their community, and the list went on.
Possibly the most disturbing comments brought forth were from the residents of this area similiar to Fircrest, higher priced homes, beautiful small community, that claimed that the kind of people that shop at a WalMart, were “just not the kind of people welcome in their community”. Just read that again, “not the kind of people welcome in their community”. Now I certainly hope that this Fircrest group is not looking down upon those that can not afford to live in Fircrest, but the arguement that crime follows a WalMart simply because a less affluent clientele shop there, can not be substantiated as a blanket fact as portrayed on your website.
I would recommend that your group go to the Pierce County Annex, 2401 South 35th Street, Current Planning Department Room 175, and ask to review the land use and comment letters files sent in for and against the 168th Avenue East WalMart in South Hill. This was my case and is Conditional Use Permit CP8-02 there are many files. Read the review of the WalMart request and the Hearing Examiner’s decision. Look at the restrictions and mitigation assigned to the project. Most importantly read the comments received from ordinary citizens, they are eye opening at best and in some cases now, an embarassment to the community members that wrote them.
I assume that one of the resons WalMart is not being welcomed are their personnel practices. Check out Macy’s hiring and personnel practices, ask their employees what it is like to work there now. I am sure that you have seen the employees informal pickets on 38th Street near the Tacoma Mall. Would your group mount an offensive if Macy’s built a store in Fircrest? How about another Fred Meyer, Target, QVC, Top Foods, or any fast food franchise? Look back to when Sears Roebuck was the undisputed leader and largest retailer in America, many small local stores folded and disappeared as a result of their size and strength, but we all survived, and once WalMart has run its course as the number one retailer, someone else will come along to dominate until their time runs its course.
The City of Fircrest gets nothing from the Lowe’s built on Orchard, and I don’t think that the City of Tacoma cares one bit that Fircrest derives zero sales tax benefit from this store. Fircrest now has the opportunity to have a major company that could quite possibly be the largest tax contributor for the City, locate in the City under the City’s rules and regulations. Rather than just railing against WalMart, I ask that your group be prepared to make efforts through your Planning Department to insure that should the project be approved, safeguards and restrictions, and conditions can be applied and assigned to the permit to protect the community.
Finally, what businesses are next on the “not in my community” bandwagen? If Starbucks came to town how would that be received. If a new deli opened next to Viafore’s with better prices and equal or better quality, would the community be up in arms against it? How about another bank, cafe, dance studio, dry cleaners, or is this company, WalMart, the only, objectionable retailer in America?
Thank you, and I wish your group continued good luck in your efforts.
Former Fircrest resident
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