What Wal-Mart can’t get by regulation, it tries to win by litigation. On May 22, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had been rejected twice in the small town of Zionsville, Indiana (pop. 12,500). This is a community that boasts of its “fabled brick street” and shops “from upscale and uniquely fashionable to rare and vintage antiques.” The tourist appeal of Zionsville is a downtown with “fine restaurants and quaint cafes” and its “peaceful, tree-lined streets (which) are a picture perfect reminder of a bygone era, of a quiet time still cherished by Zionsville residents.”
Just twenty minutes from downtown Indianapolis, Zionsville maintains “its distinctive country village charm and quality of life.” Into that “quiet time” came a Wal-Mart proposal.
On November 23, 2005, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Zionsville, Indiana Planning Commission had dealt Wal-Mart a setback. The Commission voted not to rezone 12 acres of land on Route 421 for a supercenter. The developer, Heritage RDG, was seeking a “general business” rezoning, but said they would still build a Wal-Mart supercenter on the remaining land they controlled. “It makes it more difficult, but it doesn’t affect our amended proposal,” a lawyer for the developer told the Indianapolis Star.
To make the project fit on properly zoned land, the Wal-Mart had to be scaled back from 204,000 s.f. to 176,000 s.f. “Our hope is that the (Plan) Commission would stay the course,” said Richard Carr, president of the Zionsville Merchants Association. “If you look around, you can see that the retail environment is very adequate to meet our needs.” Local residents told Sprawl-Busters, “Our planning commission has denied the rezoning, which still leaves the developer with a large commercially zoned lot. But now it’s not big enough to build any outlots. We now have the toughest battle ahead of us, making sure they still don’t build on the remaining land! Several members of our town council have been vocal about not wanting this development and are now simply looking for a reason to turn Wal-Mart away without a lengthy and expensive legal battle. Our opposition troops have begun to look to other towns who have beat Wal-Mart even when the zoning is right. We’re riding high on our first little victory, but everyone knows that Wal-Mart won’t back down this easily.”
In December of 2005, the Zionsville town council voted unanimously to support their Planning Commission, and reject Wal-Mart’s proposal for rezoning. The developer insisted again that it could build the superstore entirely on land that was already zoned for B-2 business. “As we’ve tried to express throughout the process, the parcel that was zoned B-2 permits the Wal-Mart,” said Heritage RDG, the developer. “The denial of the rezone at this stage does not impact the review of the Wal-Mart proposal.” Heritage had planned to build an 85,000s.f. center on the other 12 acres of land that was industrial and B-3 commercial. “I think we will have to decide what we want to do with our next step,” the developer added. “We’ll look at (our) legal and development options. I am exceedingly disappointed, not so much with the council as I am with the plan commission. I think they made it about Wal-Mart … the project affected had nothing to do with Wal-Mart.”