Sep 102007



f you think this issue was just about putting a Wal-Mart in a subdivision, you’d be mistaken. In part, Wal-Mart’s ‘800 pound gorilla’ arrogance was a factor, but in the end, they just followed the path laid out for them — something that doesn’t happen often to this corporate Goliath.

On Tuesday, September 4, 2007, North Carolina Court of Appeals voted unanimously in favor of the Marvin area homeowners group that has been fighting the permitting of a Wal-Mart store in their neighborhood since November 2001.

Charlotte Observer: Court rejects Wal-Mart case

The Appeals Court upheld a Superior Court’s decision that the Union County Board of Adjustments, had improperly granted a special use permit to build a Wal-Mart at the corner Rea and Tom Short Roads, in Marvin.

Village Scribe Online: V-I-N-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N: Judge Rules against Wal-Mart

If you look back at the six years of this battle, you’ll see it started with the same kind of backroom meeting shenanigans happening now with the sewer and water crisis, but then it was a different set of ‘Developer-Omissioners’ who orchestrated letters granting Wal-Mart grandfathering to zoning changes and project vesting they didn’t deserve. The mindset of generating sales-tax revenue is/was especially appealing, even last week, Commissioner Pressley lamented the loss of tax dollars when he commented about the Appeals Court decision during Commissioner comments.

Without the letters, Wal-Mart would have never attempted to build a super-center in zoning meant for 120,000 sq ft. convenience shopping, in a Planned Unit Development (PUD) with a 50,000 sq. ft. building cap. It’s fair to assume, that Wal-Mart felt they would succeed, given their deep pockets and the ‘Ferengis‘ running the show in the county.

Those letters meant a $3 million profit for the Union County wheeler dealers and cost homeowners and Union County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and six years to fight to set things right. A fight that Wal-Mart and their Commissioner backers didn’t expect — by people determined to be treated fairly and who just weren’t going to go away.

The following passage, comes from a guest commentary written by then Commissioner Clayton Loflin in the Charlotte Observer ((published Sunday, March 31, 2002)), titled “Let’s give Wal-Mart a chance to become a good neighbor”, perfectly illustrates the prevalent attitudes of those in power.

“I think it’s time for our new neighbors in Somerset to take a deep breath and consider what your fight against the proposed Wal-Mart says to the other 134,000 Union Countians: “Thank you friends for building such wonderful schools and for running a conservative government they keep the taxes on our homes low, but we prefer to work and shop in Charlotte. Just raise property taxes if you need more money. By the way, when will the new schools open so that we don’t have to drive so far and please, do something about all those mobile classrooms.”

The second phase of this debacle for Union County, was the complete and utter abrogation of the zoning laws by Union County’s Board of Adjustment.

The Board of Adjustments, as then board member Everett Median ((Mr. Medlin is currently a member of the new Union County Planning Board)), said the decision sets a precedent for the county and the region. “We as a board in Union County are going to make a legal precedent by allowing a Wal-Mart to be built within 60 feet, 55 feet, of a major housing development,” he said.

Not only did the Board of Adjustments improperly create new zoning, they ignored existing county zoning governing the shopping centers, ignored the ordinance that dictates rules of procedure and findings of fact. These are all reasons why the Special Use permit was overturned in Superior Court.

In the aftermath, Union County Commissioners ((Commissioners Kevin Presley, Hughie Sexton, Richard Stone and Roger Lane)) voted to join the homeowners to oppose the decision by the Board of Adjustment, rightfully recognizing the bastardization of county zoning would set a precedent far reaching into the future.

What’s Next

What will Wal-Mart do now? They can proceed further by petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the current case or they can start from scratch. Begin the process over by applying to the Union County Board of Adjustments, for special use permit once again.

If Wal-Mart decides to pursue a new special use permit, they’ll find the Board of Adjustments members are all new and the two lawyers for the county have flipped positions.

The attorney for the Board of Adjustments during the course of the Wal-Mart Special Use permit was John Burns, a lawyer from Monroe. If you read the findings for Superior Court Judge Collier, the lack of adherence to ordinance and the final issuance of the permit itself, was technically improper and did not follow the ‘quasi-judicial’ procedure — all indicators of legal advice not given or followed.

The attorney who represented Union County in opposing the Special Use permit, William Sturges is now the attorney for the County Board of Adjustments. Mr. Sturges has an excellent reputation and previously served in the same capacity in Charlotte.

The Cost of Victory

Before you get excited and start thinking that the next round will be better, consider that Mr. Burns was appointed as Union County attorney, in a 3-2 vote last February, replacing Don Perry. Mr. Burns is/was the personal attorney for both Commissioners Parker Mills and Allan Baucom, a glaring conflict of interest and cronyism that continues to influence current events. Another amazing ‘Business Decision’!

To summarize, the time and expense that the residents of Somerset and Hunter Oaks were forced to bear, to save their neighborhoods, was not the responsibility of the then 134,000 Union ‘Countians’, but a slick ‘inside job’ by one or more commissioners, staffers fearing for their retirement and hired incompetence on a grand scale.

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 Posted by at 11:31 pm

  11 Responses to “Taxpayers & Home Owners pay the freight for the Wal-Mart fight”

  1. As I stated previously I think its a travesty that taxpayers should have to use their own funds to sue their govt to make sure the law is being followed.

    In an ideal world they should be reimbursed for their own expense. Real world we know that isnt going to happen.

  2. Thanks, Mark D., for highlighting all of this. When I think of all the people who were in this thing to defeat us – Loflin, Helms, Feezor, Rushing, various staffers, politicos, etc., – I smile as most of them were operating from a disadvantage – misinformation, ignorance, and the lack of discipline to do the research to find out what the right processes should be. We have to be thankful for people like my wife, Liza, who have taken a multitude of hours away from the family to do the hard work that is necessary to find the truth. In the end we might in fact lose, but it will have to be a loss sustained through the correct processes. For all the myopically-minded property-rights people out there, guess what – we suburbanites have property rights too and one more thing, we have the due process of law. For the record (I’m getting a little tired of this), those of us that have been fighting THIS Wal-Mart for nearly 6 years, we do in fact want commercial development for our community, but it has to be within the zoning ordinances, land use plan, PUD, etc. Thanks again, Mark D., for this and all the effort you put into this blog. And thank you to Aubrey, Gary, Rick, Lee and everybody else who has sent us good tidings. We hope that this fight serves as an inspiration to others in working to improve local government.

  3. Jeff,

    Then I expect when the next developer files plans to put some commercial development on the wal-mart spot, you’ll humbly let it happen?

    No- you’ll fight it just the same. Your only end-game is to keep that land an open field of grass.

  4. Jeff, I congratulate you! Since the Appeals court ruling was unanimous the probability of this be heard in the Supreme Court is practically nil.

  5. Mark Raines: Maybe you haven’t been reading. We will welcome appropriate commercial development that complies with the zoning and the land use plan. If someone submits a proposal for something that doesn’t comply, then “YES” we will continue to fight. If Wal-Mart comes back with another plan that doesn’t comply, then “YES” we will continue to fight.

    Many people in our neighborhoods would really like to see a neighborhood shopping center (like what was intended for that property) that could become a community gathering place. There are lots of business that would be welcomed. I understand there are some undesirable businesses that have a right to be there – but there is an extra level of scrutiny with the PUD. This is not just B-2 zoning, but B-2 within a PUD and it still needs to integrate with the Somerset community. I’m not making that up – it’s in the land use ordinance.

    As we’ve said all along, we want the ordinances followed and the proper processes followed. I, personally, don’t think that’s too much to ask – but based on what I’ve seen about how Union County operates and how it operated when this travesty began, we know that we have to be diligent in watching what goes on as there are a lot of controls missing.

  6. Mark Raines: My wife invited you over to the house so we could educate you. Still haven’t heard from you. If you do take us up on the offer, I sincerely hope your listening comprehension is better than your reading ability. :LOL:

  7. Mark Raines: My wife invited you over to the house so we could educate you. Still haven’t heard from you. If you do take us up on the offer, I sincerely hope your listening comprehension is better than your reading ability.

  8. Jeff,

    Thanks for trying to rewrite history but I supported the Walmart fight from the beginning check the record. I even wanted to save you some money and speed up the trial but you needed the campaign issue. Good try, Good Lie Mr. Kravis. Oh yea, explain again why Walmart already has a sewer permit for 190,000 Sq. Feet of retail.

    PS Mark (Raines) stay away from Jeff’s house. If you don’t kiss his ring you will never be any good in his eyes.

  9. Note to the Johnny-come-lately Kravis’s. You fail to mention that it was Lisa Murphy who actually did the leg work to prove that Mike Shalati had misled everyone, including me, that Wally World was vested and nothing could be done to stop them. You two only used the issue to help get Sexton, Stone, Standride and Lane elected so that their friend Shalati could nearly destroy the county while they fiddled with petty politics. As proof, they appointed you and DiBiasio to committees that accompolished nothing. Lisa Murphy was the leader–you two were non-entities until she moved to Seattle.

    PS: How much did ya’ll pay for the buses to haul people to the Wesley Chapel FD annual meeting! Looked like Charlotte buses with only two or three people on board!

  10. Clayton and Stony – I won’t lower myself to getting into a spitting match with the two of you. I’m very glad neither of you is still in office. I may not like who we’ve got – but neither of you is the solution. And I will never trust either of you -or your motivations. Oh, there were times you tried to make it appear like you were on our side – usually at election time. I still fully believe that if you were serious about helping us – you could have found a way to get us out of the mess we’ve been in since November 2001 – 6 long years. This isn’t about politics – it’s about a neighborhood and people’s investments in their homes and their own and their children’s safety.

  11. In reading all Mr. Loflin’s recent comments on the Scribe, I am reminded of an unrepentant criminal caught red-handed in a 3rd strike offense, now facing political oblivion as punishment, he attempts to vilify and cast blame, hoping to deflect attention or redirect responsiblity to the victims.

    Union County will continue to pay for this legacy for years to come.

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