Walmart epitomizes high cost of low prices |

Walmart epitomizes high cost of low prices

by Jim Slade

The proposed Walmart in Gardnerville is a threat to the rural character and distinctive nature of our community. It would have long-lasting negative effects on the town of Gardnerville and the county as a whole.

There are plenty of reasons not to like Walmart:

— Low wages, always. In many cases below poverty levels.

— Housing and traffic: Where are all these low-wage employees going to live? It is unlikely that they will be able to afford to live in Douglas County. If they commute from, say, Carson City or Dayton, they will create further traffic congestion on county roads, particularly Highway 395.

— Inadequate health care, beyond the reach of most poorly-paid Walmart employees, many of whom end up using the emergency room for their primary care.

— Cheap, sub-standard, usually Chinese-made, often dangerous merchandise. I recently googled “Walmart, recall, Chinese made” and came up with over 14 million results. This included everything from lead-laced baby bibs and dog treats tainted with melamine (poisonous), to DVD players with an alarming tendency to catch on fire. Everyone likes to save a few bucks, but is it worth it if you jeopardize the health and safety of your child, your pet or your home itself?

— Income disparity: Four of the seven richest Americans are Waltons, while their employees are often on Medicaid, food stamps, S-Chip and other federal, state and county subsidies.

— Disastrous effect on local businesses, more and more of which will be shuttered if Walmart comes to town. Walmart would make a mockery of the Gardnerville Plan for Prosperity and the Main Street program.

What is of more concern to residents in the coming weeks, however, is that the Walmart application comes before both the town of Gardnerville (Dec. 1) and Douglas County Community Development (Dec. 11). The concern is that the proposed Walmart would violate both the master plan and the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan.

Douglas County Master Plan:

The very first goal of the Minden/Gardnerville Community Plan (in which the proposed site is included) is: “To preserve and enhance the existing character of the Minden/ Gardnerville Community.” Two of the policies to bring about this all-important goal are:

— The county shall encourage all new development to complement and enhance the distinctive historic character of the Towns.”

— “Douglas County shall … ensure that all new development is compatible with the traditional development style and existing ‘small town’ atmosphere of the Minden-Gardnerville Community.”

Obviously the proposed Walmart would be contrary these goals and policies, and therefore in violation of the Master Plan.

Virginia Ranch Specific Plan:

Here are a few quotes from that plan:

— Goal: “To create a distinct sense of place.” Walmart would do just the opposite.

— “To create a retail/commercial district that will strengthen the current recreational and shopping district of Gardnerville.” Walmart would adversely affect the existing shops, leading to more and more business closures.

— “A village main street theme is envisioned to capitalize on the diversity of and interest in Gardnerville’s history, culture and customs.” A big box store like Walmart would make Gardnerville more like every other town.

— “Commercial projects should be designed to create new and enhance existing pedestrian friendly streets.” Walmart’s giant parking lot would do no such thing.

Specifically identified as “undesirable elements” were “large blank, unarticulated wall surfaces” and “box-like buildings.” Sounds like Walmart.

Clearly the proposed Walmart would violate both the letter and intent of the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan. This plan was debated before and voted on by the Planning Commission and County Commissioners. When it passed, we thought we knew what we were getting, and that the County would make sure that all development abided by the plan.

Now some are saying that because the proposed Walmart has the necessary zoning, that nothing can be done. Do the Master Plan and the specific plan mean nothing? Can they be ignored just because a proposal has the required zoning?

Does the public process that was required for passage of both the Master Plan and the Specific Plan make no difference? Residents are urged to tell the Gardnerville Town Board and the County Community Development Department that they should make sure the proposal abides by the letter and intent of both plans.

And tell Community Development that the issue should be heard by the Planning Commission. Such an important decision should not be made by one person without an opportunity for further public input.

Jim Slade is a Gardnerville resident.