Big turnout for Ukiah Wal-Mart meeting; action delayed
Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.
A plan to expand the Ukiah Wal-Mart into a superstore sparked a heated debate Wednesday that pitted the project's benefits for consumers against its costs to other merchants and their employees.
More than 120 supporters and opponents jammed City Hall to weigh in on the project before the Ukiah Planning Commission. The hearing went deep into the night, forcing the panel to postpone its decision on the controversial project for one month.
The Planning Commission must decide whether to approve or reject an environmental impact report and site development permit for the project.
Wal-Mart wants to add 47,621 square feet to the existing 109,030-square-foot store in southeast Ukiah. It would include an expanded grocery section, indoor and outdoor garden area and a possible medical clinic or vision center.
Wal-Mart also is seeking permission to remain open 24 hours a day.
Proponents say they welcome the convenience and cheap grocery prices the expansion is expected to bring. Opponents say the superstore will create traffic jams and shut down existing businesses that pay better wages.
Dennis Owens, who is disabled and has a limited budget, said the store will make it more convenient and affordable for him to shop.
“I fully support it,” Owens said.
Opponents countered that cheapness comes at a price. The proposed expansion is expected to divert more than $12 million from other stores in the area, mostly supermarkets, according to the impact report.
“If you do the expansion, I will be out of a job,” said Tara McMilin, a single mother who works at Lucky's supermarket and already has seen her hours slashed.
She said Lucky's employees expect the grocery store will close if Wal-Mart expands into a superstore with a full supermarket. More than 120 people work at the store, she said.
The Planning Commission is expected to resume the Wal-Mart hearing at its next meeting, Dec. 14.
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