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Local Walmart proposes supercenter expansion

By Kayli Gascoigne
On January 24, 2013

 

With the Rohnert Park Walmart undergoing plans for expansion into a superstore, tension has begun to rise in the community.

Walmart is hoping to revive a plan to expand its store into a 32,000 square foot grocery open 24 hours a day.  This proposal was approved two years ago but then stopped by the Sonoma County Superior Court.  The court ruled that parts of the environmental report of the project were inadequate.

This issue is highly divided among the city, as it has been a topic for debate for the past few years. According to the Press Democrat, Rohnert Park officials are eager regarding the projects return, as they hope that this project will boost a city that is struggling to stabilize an economic base.

In 2010, the City Council overturned its Planning Commission's earlier rejection of the Walmart plan. Arguments against the project became focused on a local grocery, Pacific Market, whose owners felt forced to close if the Walmart's supercenter expansion was approved in 2011.  They closed anyway, due to low sales.

Marty Bennett, co-chair of the Living Wage Coalition, urges students to take a second thought when considering the Walmart expansion.

 "A lot is at stake for the students," said Bennett. "One Walmart Supercenter will lower wages by one percent across the board, throughout the county. The average Walmart worker makes significantly less than a living wage for Sonoma County."

The Living Wage Coalition serves the purpose to address the problem of growing income inequality and working poverty in our community.  The Coalition is opposing this new supercenter due to the impact they believe it will bring upon the community.  

After the hearing was postponed from December 2012, the Rohnert Park Planning Commission is meeting at City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. to consider the proposal.  The public hearing will revisit the Revised Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Rohnert Park Walmart Expansion project.  

Other individuals of the community are excited to see what the supercenter will do for Rohnert Park.  

 "I think it would be a great thing if the Walmart expansion project passes," said student Elliot Rosales.  "It would be a convenient place where you could get a variety of products for 24 hours a day. Safeway is open 24 hours a day and they are successful. This would be a similar establishment."

However, many community members are concerned about the crime a 24-hour parking lot can bring.

"This supercenter will bring in much unnecessary traffic, as well as increase the crime levels," said student Erin Denola. "I don't think we need this large of a supercenter in such a small, tight knit community. I love the small town feeling of Rohnert Park, and I would hate for that to change."

The outcome of this supercenter is uncertain, yet the tension among the community is growing.  

The Rohnert Park Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. at Rohnert Park City Hall, 130 Avram Street.  Those who plan on attending are encouraged to arrive at 5:30 p.m.  More information regarding the expansion, such as the EIR, is available at:

http://www.ci.rohnert-park.ca.us.


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