Al Norman, the nationally celebrated "sprawl buster" who has been offering counsel to the Centerville anti-Wal-Mart effort, will be coming to Centerville at a to-be-announced time and place in early May. He has been featured by such news media as Newsweek and Nightline.
According to Centerville's George Fisher, secretary of the anti-Wal-Mart effort known as Centerville Citizens FIRST (CCF), Norman has been reviewing site plans and planning ordinances. In addition, Norman has offered his new anti-Wal-Mart book, "The Case Against Wal-Mart," at a discounted price through the CCF's new Web site, www.centerville-utah.com.
The fight is not limited, however, to speakers.
"We've secured legal counsel as well," Fisher said of CCF's efforts. (The CCF Web site explains that they exist as "a non-profit corporation set up by citizens of Centerville for the sole purpose of protecting our town. Priority number one is to stop the currently proposed Super Wal-Mart.")
To fund the attorney, "possible litigation" costs and other actions, CCF held a fund raiser on Saturday in front of Fisher's Centerville home on Main Street. A pile of $10 "Stop Wal-Mart" shirts sat under a canopy, and several CCF activists tried to attract passing cars.
At noon, and with more than five hours to go, they had sold some 70 shirts.
"So far we've raised more than $2,000," Fisher said. "And a few people stopped by and said, 'We don't wear T-shirts, but we like what you're doing.' And they'd hand us money. We got a $50 check, a $100 check and a $500 check."
Their Web site states that CCF's legal costs may exceed $50,000.
"We also want to convince the Stahle and Holbrook families that there are better uses for the property," Fisher said of the property owners at the proposed site. "Maybe something that will have a better impact and give a better way of life."
Other attempts to stop the proposed Wal-Mart include planned litigation by the Country Cottages, a development that exists immediately to the west of the proposed site, and, after the highly publicized defeat of a Wal-Mart effort to place a store in Inglewood, Calif., there has been some chatter of city residents wanting to force the issue to a vote.
But that can't happen, according to Centerville Assistant City Manager Blaine Lutz.
"There's no avenue to force a vote," Lutz said. He explained that California law, which permitted the vote, is very different from Centerville law.
He explained that regardless of concerns that a Wal-Mart could ruin nearby businesses, the city cannot deny a store simply because it is a giant retailer.
"You can't protect a specific store," he said. "It's like saying that you don't want a certain resident in the neighborhood because of a certain race, religion or economic status."
Lutz said, however, that the city's planning commission could deny the store if it created an impossible-to-meet draw on city infrastructure or resources. For example, if the planning commission felt that Wal-Mart's draw on city water or sewer services would overwhelm the system, they could deny the conditional use permit.
Lutz explained that, in addition to their own studies, "We look for the public to bring up these issues." Hence the public comment time at the commission meeting.
Wal-Mart is applying to the planning commission for a conditional use permit, a conceptual site permit and a conceptual subdivision.