City Council Asks For a Review of Wal-Mart's Project Plans

The city council last night voted for a 30-day review of Wal-Mart's project plans.

Over a hundred people packed City Hall ready to speak before the city council on why they want a Wal-Mart in Menifee.

After the retail giant had successfully cleared the way for a ballot initiative to take up residence in the city, the city council was required to choose from one of three options, either to let the ballot initiative continue, or approve the project now and cancel the ballot initiative, or ask for a 30-day review.

Several councilmembers actually sounded supportive of Wal-Mart, but found it could not approve its plans because of the way Wal-Mart presented its petition to voters. It's petition contained several minor differences than what the city's Planning Commission had originally approved.

As a result, the city council along with the city's staff, could not say with any certainty that they understood the details of Wal-Mart's current project plans. Hence, the city council was not willing to approve something they didn't have all the answers to.

Instead, the council opted for the 30-day study of Wal-Mart's plans based on what was presented in the petition. Once that study is complete, the council will vote whether to approve Wal-Mart's plans and bypass a ballot initiative, or allow the ballot initiative to continue.

The city council sounded very apprehensive about paying $113,500.00 of city funds to create a special election just for this ballot. However, councilman John Denver noted that there will be a general election in June where Governor Brown will ask voters to pony up more taxes. If they allow this Wal-Mart ballot to piggyback on that June election, the city's costs will drop to about $30,000.00.

By asking for a 30-day study, the city can delay matters long enough to qualify for that June election.

As many as 30 residents handed in speaker slips to testify before the council, 28 of whom spoke in favor, one taking a neutral stance, and one who was against. Not all of them spoke however, opting to forego after several others before them repeated the same message.

Many of those who did speak were elderly on fixed incomes, stating that they currently shop at Wal-Marts in Perris, Lake Elsinore, and Murrieta, and would love a Wal-Mart in Menifee to cut down on fuel expenses.

Another speaker indicated that at his age of 57 years, he's not quite retired, but has been unemployed for three years and no one wants to hire him. He said that at his financial state, he was very willing to work for Wal-Mart.

The one speaker who was against Wal-Mart expressed fear that smaller local businesses would get put out of business.

This map of Menifee shows how many residents currently shop at Wal-Mart in other cities.


Residents filled City Hall with stickers given to them from Wal-Mart representatives

Several representatives from Wal-Mart were on hand. Before the meeting got underway, they passed out stickers to everyone saying "Wal-Mart Yes!"

Aaron Rios, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with Wal-Mart, acted as the spokesman in the meeting. John Denver asked why Wal-Mart chose to bypass the original city council hearing and opt to conduct a petition, Rios answered, "We wanted to show how much public support there is for Wal-Mart". Denver continued, phrasing his question a different way. Rios answered, "It's the most expedient process to get this project started."

Councilwoman Kuenzi asked him if Wal-Mart would pay the $113,500.00 they could cost the city because of its choice to seek a ballot initiative. "No", Rios answered, "We will not cover the cost of an election."

Rios did go on to say that Wal-Mart is prepared to pay $3.8 million towards the cost of expanding Scott Rd bridge. That project is expected to cost approximately $40 million, and it's still not clear when it might start.

Wal-Mart originally planned to occupy the future building around February 2013, but moved that date to Sep 2013. Rios explained that they are willing to delay that date to as far as mid-2015 if the city needs more time to complete bridge expansion. City staff would not go on record as saying bridge expansion would be complete even by mid-2015.

Rios went on to say that this new Wal-Mart will create 300 permanent, benefitted jobs, and generate about $790,000.00 in annual sales tax revenues for the city. He even cited a figure of $150 million in revenues generated by new businesses that grow up around Wal-Mart. I assume those revenues are annual gross receipts.

Councilman Tom Fuhrman asked Rios some tough questions regarding Wal-Mart's impact on the local economy and worldwide economy. "How many foreign made products do you sell?" he asked. Rios couldn't answer. "How many employees of this Wal-Mart will actually live in Menifee?" Rios couldn't answer that specifically. However, he did say that in other Wal-Marts throughout California, a majority of Wal-Mart employees live in the same city as their Wal-Mart.

Fuhrman went on to state that the city council this evening only heard from about 100+ people who signed the petition, and more petitioners needed to be heard from. "We need to hear from the other 7,900 on whether or not they want a Wal-Mart", a statement that caused John Denver to shake his head and roll his eyes in disbelief. "I implore people who are against Wal-Mart to come out of the woodwork and let's hear from you!" Fuhrman continued.

In the end, the city council voted 4-1, with Fuhrman against, to ask for a 30-day review of Wal-Mart's current project plans as they were submitted in the petition.

Fuhrman voted no based on his belief that there are many petitioners who are not necessarily supporters of Wal-Mart. "I believe there are lot of people who signed the petition who wanted to vote against it" he explained. He went on to say that he found at least six such petitioners.




9 Comments:

  1. Steve, could you please post the date and time, and location of the next City Council Meeting that will address this Wal Mart issue, so that those of us who wish to be heard can be. Can you also post the mailing address or emailing address to send letters of interest in this issue to the City Council Members prior to the next hearing.
    So many of us want to be heard, but don't quite know how to go about it!

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  2. A comment from the Californian

    How many of the people that support the construction live near that location? For example if they live closer to Sun City the only inconvienience to them would be getting there maybe once a week. How about the residence that have to cross the overpass on a dailey base...I heard that the petitioners were at Target (I for one never saw them there) for a while but it seems they were closer to the markets in Sun City for the signitures. I never saw one at the Albertsons (which is on the border of Murrieta) but surrounded by Menifee homes or at the next closest one....Ralphs market. Could it be cause they would have had a harder time getting the signitures? These are the areas that are going to get impacted by the traffic.

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  3. Tina, any letters you want sent to city council need to be addressed to their names at City Hall: 29714 Haun Rd.
    Menifee, CA 92586. Kuenzi, Twyman, Denver, and Fuhrman have Facebook accounts, and you can look them up and send them a message. I'll post the date when this issue comes up before city council next time.

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  4. @ Anonymous 9:08am, regarding those people who live near the proposed Wal-Mart, keep in mind that entire area along Scott Rd, west of the 215 is going is already slated to become a large business park. Traffic is going to increase anyways with or without Wal-Mart.

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  5. Steve I understand the other developments that are either on the drawing boards or in progress of development.It's just the way Walmart decieded to progress with their development.I was not happy when they started on the South side of Scott and became more concerned when the plans were submitted on the West side of Haun. I realize Walmart has been in the works for some time but somethings got to be done, it'll be bad enough when the first development opens.....how about the others that follow if the streets and the overpass situation is not corrected...

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  6. Have this vote and end this debate once and for all. People want jobs and low prices. Sick and tired of busy-bodies and NIMBYs telling me where to shop. Self appointed community leaders saying they represent me, they can go fly a kite. My vote is one vote just like anyone else in Menifee. No one has a vote that counts more than anyone else no matter how loud you scream. I cant wait to vote for a new Wal-Mart. And you can call me a derogatory term as a "Wal-Mart shopper" and make websites about us but we vote and we count.

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  7. I have nothing against Walmart or shopping there, just the way their trying to bully the City by possibly putting a $113,500.00 price tag on a special election ballot. It just seems wrong to try to buy permission to bypass requirements set forth to try to improve the area for everyone. It's everyones right to vote....

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  8. Was the state of traffic in the area they are proposing to build discussed or considered at all?

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  9. @ Anonymous 9:46 AM, yes traffic was heavily considered. However, the city can't really move forward on road improvements right now, there's just no money. It may take a few more years for Scott Rd bridge expansion. And because Wal-Mart did ran the petition, the city no longer has to power to make Wal-Mart do anything.

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