Residents turn out against Walmart
By Sarah Willets firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PAULS — About 30 people attended the St. Pauls Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday to reiterate their opposition to a new Walmart in town.
A request from Walmart for a conditional-use permit was tabled Tuesday because Walmart asked that any action be deferred 30 days so it could hold an information session. The “meet and greet” will be held Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the National Guard Armory at 705 Old Stage Road in St. Pauls.
The proposed store, which would be located on Broad Street between South Wilkinson Drive and Odum Street, was discussed in front of about 100 people in a public hearing on Feb. 3, after which the town’s Planning Board voted 6 to 2 to recommend that the board deny the request.
“We just want to let them know that we’re still here and we’ll be at every meeting,” said Gayle Sparkman, who lives on South Wilkinson Drive, a residential road with about 23 homes. Sparkman is concerned about additional traffic on her street, which she fears would be used as a shortcut to the 41,000-square-foot Walmart.
“There are good people on that street and we look out for each other,” she said. Sparkman worries littering would come with the store.
William Wertz, director of Communications for Walmart’s eastern region said is looking the store’s potential effect on traffic.
“We are working with the city to ensure that traffic will flow smoothly. We want customers to have safe and convenient access to the store,” Wertz said.
Barbara Glover, who owns the Broad Street Cafe in downtown St. Pauls, thinks the Walmart would “dry up” the area.
“… We’ve seen what Walmart does in all small towns,” Glover said. “We’re dead against it.”
St. Pauls has three local pharmacies and some local food stores that would compete with Walmart, Sparkman said.
Glover worries what the store could mean for her restaurant, which has been open for 11 years.
“Once Walmart comes out here, you’re going to get these big box restaurants … you can’t tell me that won’t affect my business,” she said.
Wertz said Walmart Markets, like the one proposed for St. Pauls, have been popular in other towns.
“Our store will bring about 90 new jobs to St. Pauls at a time when unemployment is high. And it will bring lower prices on groceries and many other items to customers who are looking for more affordable shopping opportunities,” Wertz said.
Sparkman, Glover and others discussed the issue with a reporter during a 30-minute closed session they believed was about the Walmart.
But Mayor Gordon Westbrook said Walmart “was not brought up” during the closed session. Town Administrator J.R. Steigerwald said the time was used as an information session with town attorney on zoning and land use-related hearings, statutes and permits. Steigerwald said the conversation was in part inspired by the Walmart issue, but that it did not concern a particular project.
In other business, the board:
— Approved a conditional-use permit submitted by Birdseye Environmental, which needs it to place a solar farm on Shaw Mills Road. “We already had one in town. It’s the same company, we’ve never had any complaints or issues,” Westbrook said.
— Approved a reimbursement of 56 cents a mile for travel for members of the St. Pauls ABC board.
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