[Update @ 1100: More detail... Update @ 0300 on 30 January: Well, the vote went as I expected. The Louisville Metro Planning Council voted 7-1 with one abstention to give Walmart what the Bentonvile Behemoth wanted: yet another cookie-cutter Supercenter at 18th and Broadway. Walmart earns another Vonnegutian asshole and a so it goes.] I noted this story on Sunday and predicted that tonight's vote will not go well for the people of Louisville. This vote is about the heart and soul of a community that wants to promote walkability and a neighborly atmosphere. Walmart has never been about either and I seriously doubt that the Bentonvile Behemoth is about to change anytime soon.
After months of discussion, controversy, public hearings and even prayer, the Louisville Metro Planning Commission faces a key vote Thursday on whether to approve plans for a Wal-Mart superstore in West Louisville at 18th Street and Broadway. Its decision comes down to this single question: Will Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, get a pass on planning and zoning rules that apply to everyone else? Or, put another way, will the 10 members of the commission stick to the rules they routinely require other developers to meet? Both sides make cases for and against Wal-Mart plan for West Broadway. The stakes are high: Wal-Mart could simply pull out of the project and leave an area desperately in need of investment and jobs with a still vacant lot.The question: Is that a compelling reason for the commission to change just for Wal-Mart the rules spelled out in Louisville's Land Development Code? Wal-Mart is seeking special permission to build a suburban, big box store 154,000 square feet in size, some 400 feet off the road, and fronted by a parking lot of more than 600 spaces. It has made a few concessions but has refused to consider building an "urban Wal-Mart" — less boxy and closer to the street — even though it has done so in other cities to comply with planning rules. Louisville's planning code requires new buildings in downtown areas and in traditional, urban neighborhoods to be built on the sidewalk with downsized parking to promote walking and cycling and improve pedestrian access. Corner sites are especially critical for enhancing the appearance and accessibility of developments.
Years ago I used to attend an annual writer's conference in Louisville organized by the Green River Writers. One year I did a coffee-shop tour of the city and loved the way the shops and the streets felt. Building this Walmart will be like taking a huge shit on the city and any hope of Keeping Louisville Weird. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

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