By the time neighbors caught wind of Walmart's plans to build a scaled-down Supercenter at the corner of Coit and Arapaho roads in Far North Dallas, it was too late. The retailer already had the proper zoning and had just signed a long-term lease. No matter how many yard signs (900) or petition signatures (2,700) angry neighbors could rack up, the store's eventual presence was a foregone conclusion. The retailer is ready for this type of NIMBY opposition. It's baked into its business plan.
Official confirmation came yesterday from City Councilwoman Sandy Greyson (h/t the Advocate). She posted a letter to residents explaining that, while neighbors had put up a good fight, they had failed to persuade Walmart to change its mind.
In the end, even though a great many people in the surrounding neighborhoods indicated they wouldn't shop there, Walmart believes that once the store is open, residents will shop there and it will be successful. They based their opinion on several factors: similar levels of opposition to other Walmart stores where residents who originally were opposed eventually shopped there, in particular a store in Austin, Texas which is now thriving, and a recent local survey commissioned by Walmart. The phone survey asked residents in Dallas council districts 11 and 12 within a three mile radius of Arapaho and Coit if they supported a store there. The results of 354 surveys were 49% in favor, 41% opposed, and 10% declining to answer. I believe that those who lived farthest away made up the bulk of the 49% favorable but there's no way of knowing for sure because names and addresses were not included in the results--Walmart reps felt that gathering that information would make the survey too costly.
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Dorothy Wernsman, a Spring Creek resident who helped lead the anti-Walmart forces, is skeptical of the survey results. She heard from neighbors who received the survey that the questions were confusing and misleading, and she's upset that it only included Dallas residents and not those on the other side of Coit Road in Richardson who will be equally impacted. That said, "we really don't have a choice in the matter. We never had a legal standing like in so many other cases where Walmart has to be voted in.
"This was really just pleading with Walmart," she adds.
Not that the fight is completely over. Wernsman will head a neighborhood committee that will work to make sure that Walmart addresses neighbors' concerns. The top priority, Wernsman says, is to make sure the store isn't open 24 hours per day. A bit further down the list is some type of cart-containment system to make sure the neighborhood isn't littered with metal buggies; crime monitoring; and a litter/trash reduction program.
Meanwhile, in her letter, Greyson urges residents not to take the news too hard. "Everyone knew this was a David and Goliath battle and this time David didn't win," she said. "But if you don't try, you never win."