Wal-Mart's giant plan for Rohnert Park

  • Wal Mart in Rohnert Park has plans to expand, Thursday April 23, 2009.(Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)2009

Wal-Mart, the biggest big-box on the block, plans to supersize its Rohnert Park store, adding a full-service grocery.

If approved, the 35,000-square-foot expansion would increase the store?s footprint to 167,000 square feet, edging out Lowe?s in Cotati as the largest big-box store in Sonoma County.

The world?s largest retailer has submitted plans to expand its Redwood Drive location by 28 percent, adding the larger grocery section the company says customers have been clamoring for.

?We?ve been a part of the Rohnert Park community for many years, and we?re hearing from them that they want these additional offerings,? said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Angela Stoner.

The proposal is almost certain to open a new front in the long-running battle that has pitted large corporate retailers against local merchants protecting their turf and activists advocating better wages and benefits.

The plan already is drawing criticism from the local grocery industry and activists who derailed Wal-Mart?s plans to build a store in Santa Rosa.

The Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County vowed Thursday to push for Rohnert Park to study economic and social effects of the project, not just environmental ones.

?We?re going to to take a very serious look at this,? said Marty Bennett, co-chairman of the coalition.

Tom Scott, manager of Oliver?s Market, expressed concern about the wages and health benefits Wal-Mart pays workers ? issues that likely will be raised by critics as the project makes its way through the city approval process.

?Wal-Mart is able to cut costs out of the system, but there is a price paid for that,? Scott said. ?It doesn?t show up on the receipt, but it shows up in the community.?

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