December 22, 2004
WOODLAND PARK - Residents fighting a proposed Wal-Mart store here are trying to buy some time. Citizens for Responsible Growth, formed last month in response to the retail giant’s plans to open a supercenter, is circulating a petition asking for a six-month moratorium on bigbox stores.
If the group collects 552 signatures — 10 percent of the city’s 5,520 registered voters — the Woodland Park City Council must adopt the moratorium or refer the issue to a special election. “We’ll gain time to build our argument,” group spokesman Dave Paraday said, adding that city leaders appear eager to rush through the deal. But Woodland Park Mayor Gary Crane said, “We’re not going to be making any decisions in a hurricane. It’s not a fast process.” Wal-Mart’s application is expected in early January, and a decision on rezoning a 47-acre site on the east side of the city to allow the store could come in two or three months. Volunteers fanned out Tuesday through Woodland Park neighbor- hoods, searching for registered voters who will support their cause. “I chose this town. I chose to live up here, and I don’t want to see it turned into Colorado Springs,” volunteer Julie McGuire said. She got one of her first signatures from her neighbor, 34-year resident Mildred Forney. If Wal-Mart comes, other businesses, including the Ben Franklin general store, will suffer, Forney said. “I know of several businesses that would be forced out,” she said. “Our own Ben Franklin and some gift stores.” She’s not alone in thinking so. Mark Duvall, owner of Whole in the Wall, an herb shop near City Market, figures if Wal-Mart comes, he’s in trouble. “It would shut down this entire strip center,” said Duvall, who’s keeping a petition in his store. Other residents say the retailer’s low prices are why they like the idea of having a Wal-Mart in town. Tom Martin, a Woodland Park man who said he’s disabled and on a fixed income, said he’d like to get a store “where we could get things at a reasonable price.” He can’t drive, and it’s difficult finding rides down to the Eighth Street Wal-Mart, where he feels his money goes a lot further than it does in Woodland Park. “I went to Ben Franklin to get a picture frame. They wanted $13 for the darned thing. I go next door to City Market, and it’s only a couple dollars cheaper,” he said. “I was taken to Wal-Mart, and I was able to buy two picture frames, plus have change left over.” It’s not clear how many residents share Martin’s view. City Hall has received a smattering of letters and e-mails about the issue — six against the proposal, one in support of Wal-Mart and one that didn’t take a clear position. Crane said he’s also been contacted by a number of residents, more of whom seem against the project than for it. As far as Pete Petersen is concerned, residents seem divided over the issue depending on how long they’ve lived there. “The folks against it are newcomers,” said Petersen, a 25-year resident. “The newcomers’ attitude is: I’m here first, therefore nobody else should come here.” The folks for it, Petersen said, include himself and other senior citizens who don’t like paying higher prices in town and don’t want to drive down icy roads in the winter to Colorado Springs. Paraday said the anti-Wal-Mart group recognizes that residents want less expensive options closer to home. He said the group hopes to work with the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority to remedy that — without bringing in a superstore. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0285 or email@example.com