Citizens Reject Biased Wal-Mart Proceedings
February 21, 2007
Members of a citizens group that has been working for more than two years to keep Wal-Mart from building a 160,000-square foot store in a farmfield two miles outside St. Albans city today rejected – in writing – the St. Albans Town Development Review Board proceedings in the matter, saying the process has been rife with conflict of interest. Members of the Northwest Citizens for Responsible Growth, along with neighboring landowners Marie Frey and Richard Hudak (the ‘Petitioners’) announced in a letter to the DRB that they will not attend further hearings on JLD Properties’ Wal-Mart proposal unless seven members who have a conflict of interest recuse themselves from hearing the proposal. The group noted, however, that they will continue to participate in the proceedings by filing written evidence.
NWCRG is a local, volunteer, not-for-profit organization comprised of concerned citizens with an interest in participating in a fair public decision-making process regarding this and other large-scale developments. From the beginning, members of the group have raised serious concerns over the size and location of the proposed store and the negative impacts it could have on the local economy, environment, infrastructure and communities.
“All we have ever wanted is to have a fair, impartial review of the proposed Wal-Mart store,” noted Sue Prent of NWCRG. “Because of the potential long-term, costly consequences of making a shortsighted decision on this matter, the Development Review Board must be comprised of local officials who have not already made up their minds. Anything otherwise undermines the integrity of the public process and the ability to conduct an unbiased analysis.”
After participating in every step along the way thus far, the Petitioners’ point to two primary rationales for now rejecting the process. They contend that the makeup of the DRB, remaining largely unchanged since the board first approved the project in 2005, leaves little doubt that the existing board will, once again, approve the project. They also contend that the proceedings are biased and, therefore, do not justify the considerable expenditure of time, financial resources, and expertise when the outcome is predetermined.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council shares these concerns and, as the legal representatives of the ‘petitioners’’ in the proceeding, penned the official letter to the DRB. Read a copy of the full letter to the DRB here.