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Push is on for Approval of Cave Creek Walmart

by Beth Duckett – Sept. 22, 2009
The Arizona Republic

 

Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia is urging the town's citizens to support Walmart this November.

“It’s the right time” to build a supercenter near Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, said Francia in a publicity pamphlet mailed out this week. Voters will determine Nov. 3 whether to endorse Cave Creek Town Council's decision to allow a Walmart.

“People who say Walmart is going to affect the lifestyle of Cave Creek – that is nonsense,” Francia told the Arizona Republic.

The world’s largest retailer is planning a 24-hour supercenter on the southeast of the intersection, not far from a Low’s home-improvement store, in south Cave Creek.

The publicity pamphlet features 26 arguments in favor and 6 against.A political group turned in enough signatures this summer to challenge a General Plan amendment and rezoning adopted by the council in June. The votes altered Walmart’s land use and zoning to allow commercial building.

Propositions 400 and 401 aim to overturn the decisions.

Dean Phillips, chairman of the group opposing the store, described the election as “David versus Goliath.” He said his group, called Protect Residential Integrity, Zoning and Environment, doesn’t have the same financial backing as its rival committee, Friends of Cave Creek.

Records show “Friends” accepted $23,000 in contributions from Walmart this summer. The money went toward consulting services, a field market survey and a voter-registration drive. “This is also David’s bank account against Goliath’s bank account,” Phillips said. “Walmart is the largest retailer in the world. I’m just a regular old neighbor who lives adjacent to the property.”

But Friends’ chairman Terry Smith said he believes a Walmart will leverage local business activity and shore up the town’s coffers. People who oppose it “would like to see the town fail, as far as I can see,” he said.

A former Cave Creek councilman, Smith argued it would draw potential shoppers to the community while producing millions of dollars in local sales tax.

Current town estimates predict a Walmart could bring in an annual $2 to $3 million in revenue for Cave Creek.

“There is no competition for what Walmart sells compared to what we have in Cave Creek as a tourist town,” Smith said. “As a matter of fact, our business community is supporting a rezoning and Walmart.”

Challengers of the Walmart have argued that the store could bring more traffic, noise, pollution and crime to the neighborhood, which is close to homes and a middle school. It is anti-Cave Creek values, they said.

“We’re concerned about public safety issues,” Phillips said. “We don’t want to have to live adjacent to that kind of thing.”

But Francia, who in 2000 successfully asked voters to tax themselves to save a park preserve, said the store will upgrade the town’s tax base in a location historically ripe for commercial development.

“When I lived in Cave Creek in the 70s, there was no commercial development there,” Francia said. “(But) we all felt that was going to be developed commercially one day because that's where all the traffic was.”