Walmart foes take case to county
Opponents of a Walmart store south of Gardnerville took advantage of a routine hearing Thursday to argue their case in front of Douglas County commissioners.
At the conclusion of the hour-long discussion, commissioners approved 5-0 a development application for conditional abandonment of water and utility easements on the property owned by Sierra Nevada SW Enterprises south of Gardnerville on Highway 395.
“We are talking about abandoning easements. This is not a social forum on Walmart,” said Commissioner Greg Lynn. “This whole thing is turning into a Watergate conspiracy. There is an implication we as a board are in cahoots with Walmart. Everybody knew Walmart was sniffing around for a site for years.”
Critics of Walmart argued that the county was ignoring the 2004 Virginia Ranch Specific Plan which called for a village-like, pedestrian-friendly development compatible with historic downtown Gardnerville, not a 152,495-square-foot retail store.
“We are talking about approving an abandonment request, not approving a Walmart,” Lynn said.
Resident Linda Kleiner said the primary use of the parcel was to be residential, and the county should hold commercial developers to the original Virginia Ranch plan.
“A large box store is going in and there’s no forum to discuss it but here,” said Donna Buddington. “There is a sense of resignation.”
The abandonments were requested because they bisect the site, making future retail use difficult to provide access, drainage and site design.
“This would be exactly the same process if it was a little ‘villagey’ Boulder, Colo.-type project. Nobody is greasing the chutes for Walmart to make that property commercially viable,” Lynn said.
An emotional Rob Anderson, representing the applicant, objected to comments that no residents in the area wanted Walmart and the project required an environmental assessment.
“I have been very careful in what I say to represent the truth and the facts,” Anderson said. “There is nothing in this application that violates the master plan, the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan or any provision of the Douglas County code.
“Those who claim it does should be chastised. Their statements are not true. It’s their right to have concerns about the store, and that’s provided during the design review process. That process needs to take place. If they don’t like the process, they should change it.
“This borders on socialism and communism. This is America and we still have private property rights,” Anderson said.
He said Walmart officials based their decision to locate south of Gardnerville on the ZIP codes of shoppers who use the North County store.
“Comments that this is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the community or Walmart is using this store to get closer to California are fallacious,” Anderson said.
Requiring an environmental assessment is without basis in Nevada law, Anderson said.
Commissioner Doug Johnson questioned whether there was enough information to approve the abandonments.
“Before you is the determination whether these abandonments would cause material injury to the public. Your staff says ‘no,’ This is conditional. Your community development department makes sure all conditions are met,” said Assistant District Attorney Michael McCormick.
He told commissioners if all entities, such as the Gardnerville Town Board and the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District don’t sign off on the abandonments, they won’t be granted.
“Would we even be having this discussion if we didn’t know Walmart was coming?” Johnson asked.
Walmart’s next step is a design review hearing Dec. 1 before the Gardnerville Town Board. Final action by the county on the design review application is to be completed Dec. 11.