Updated: May 28, 2005 at 12:00 am
Woodland Park residents fighting a planned Wal-Mart didn’t collect enough valid signatures to hold a referendum on overturning approval of a Supercenter. City Clerk Cindy Morse’s ruling Friday exhausted what appears to be the last option available to Citizens for Responsible Growth, which had campaigned against Wal-Mart, and removed the last known obstacle to the company’s plan for a 160,000-square-foot store. “I’m very disappointed,” Citizens for Responsible Growth spokesman Dave Paraday said. Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris said he is pleased with the news but added that company officials expected that even if opponents succeeded in forcing an election, they would have lost. “We were confident, had this gone to a referendum, that it would have come out similar to the vote the moratorium ended up with,” Morris said. Voters this month rejected by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1 a ballot measure that would have imposed a temporary morato- rium on big-box stores. Morse verified 477 of the 582 signatures submitted a week ago — 17 less than the 494 signatures needed to require a special election. City officials initially reported the group had submitted 583 signatures but had miscounted, Morse said. Morse said she eliminated signatures of people who didn’t live within city limits or weren’t registered voters. The petitions also contained some duplicate signatures. Wal-Mart opponents have the right to protest Morse’s ruling, but said Friday afternoon that they haven’t decided what they’ll do. Paraday said his group’s efforts during the past six months helped ensure the city got a better designed store than what Wal-Mart officials initially proposed. “We take satisfaction in that,” he said. Wal-Mart’s plans divided Woodland Park residents. Opponents argued a Supercenter would take customers from local businesses and change the character of the city. Supporters welcomed discount prices closer to home. Morris said Wal-Mart hopes to start construction this year and open the store in the fall of 2006.