In Lorain County, Ohio: Where there’s a will, There’s a Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is so hungry for what little money exists in Lorain County that it is getting ready to begin cannibalizing itself. Lorain County Ohio, minutes west of Cleveland along the southern shore of Lake Erie covers 492.50 square miles, and is home to 284,664 people according to the 2000 census. Its largest populated areas include the cities of Lorain, Elyria, Avon Lake, North Ridgeville and Oberlin. Lorain County is rust-belt industrial in its north and rural-agricultural to its south. Lorain County may also soon have 5 Wal-Marts to call its own. That’s one Wal-Mart for every less-than 100 square miles. One Wal-Mart for every 57,000 men, women and children that call Lorain County home. The first Wal-Mart opened in Elyria, Ohio a little over a decade ago. It was an innocuous little addition to the string of strip centers that surround the Midway Mall on the boundary between the cities of Lorain and Elyria, Ohio. Content to play it’s part in the scheme of retail development growing up in that area, Wal-Mart was welcomed, well-received, and oft-shopped by folks in many surrounding communities. Approximately four years ago, the company founded by Sam Walton built and opened a similar sized store in Avon, Ohio. Now the people living in Lorain County had a choice between two Wal-Marts in two cities both with growing retail developments about a 10 minute drive apart. Lorain County is growing as the sprawl of Cleveland creeps ever-westward, so I suppose it must need 2 Wal-Marts. Not content to stop there, the folks in “Club Sam” last year pushed for 3 additional stores to be built. One in Oberlin, one in Lorain and One in Vermilion – adding up to a total of 5 Wal-Marts inside a mixed urban-rural county, separated at most, by a 15 minute drive. Some concerned citizens in the progressive town of Oberlin placed, in November of 2005, a “Living Wage” referendum on the ballot. The thinking being that any business that wanted to locate within the city limits of Oberlin, Ohio would have to pay a living wage – this law alone would prevent Wal-Mart from setting up shop in the college town. The referendum was surprisingly soundly defeated last November. Meanwhile, we the people up north in the city of Lorain also had a referendum on the ballot – Issue 24. The fun folks at Wal-Mart after being shown several vacant similar use structures in needy neighborhoods within Lorain, opted to build their Lorain store in an area that bordered a residential neighborhood on three sides and was 1/4 mile from a Super K-Mart. A majority of the neighbors were furious at the thought of sharing their block with the Bentonville Behemoth, so they lawyered up and got a zoning referendum on the ballot. One of the owners of the property that Wal-Mart selected to build on was Ronald Mantini, the Auditor of the City of Lorain. It could not be said that he did not have any financial interest in this particular deal going through. Given his power and influence, we all knew this was not going to be an easy fight. Lorain area labor unions held rallies and concerned citizens from all over the city joined in on the anti-rezoning bandwagon. The City of Lorain officially was more than willing to sacrifice its neighborhood for the sake of cheap plastic crap, but the citizens spoke and said no to the re-zoning by almost 60%. After the resounding defeat, Wal-Mart donned its “we’ll show you” regalia and stated it had no plans to build in Lorain, Ohio ever again. Fearing a similar trouncing in nearby Vermilion, Waly World pulled out of its plans to open up shop there as well. So as 2006 began, Lorain County had a Wal-Mart in Elyria, one in Avon and a Super center being built in Oberlin. Lest we forget, Wal-Mart - in its mission to rule the world, is never truly “finished” with an area. One could almost sense that although very quietly and at times without announcement and/or fanfare, Wal-Mart was hard at work behind the scenes attempting to mount a counter attack. I am a reader/participant/fan of our local community on-line discussion board. All the opinions, news, rumor and dirt – it’s there. Over the course of this past summer, a mysterious anonymous commenter has been, almost obnoxiously, posting copied and pasted Pro-Wal-Mart propaganda. Some days as many as 6-8 postings would go up. We quickly got the sense that this person perhaps either had some information that the rest of us weren’t privy to, or they enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart way too much. There would be allusions of Wal-Mart getting ready to make another go at Lorain, Ohio even though the people had overwhelmingly said “no” the year before. I was intrigued, but not surprised. Then on October 1, 2006 – this hit the local newspaper:
ELYRIA -- Wanting to have a full-service grocery in the Midway Mall area, Wal-Mart representatives plan to build a SuperCenter store about a half-mile from its current location. A plan was submitted to Elyria city officials to build a Wal-Mart SuperCenter on the northwest corner of West River and Griswold roads, according to Elyria Mayor Bill Grace. The 19 acre-site is the location of the former Maplewood Elementary School. A 184,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter is planned for the new site, according to Ronald Mosby, senior manager of public relations for Wal-Mart. The current 130,000-square-foot store at 149 Midway Blvd. in the River Street Shopping Center doesn't have room to expand, he said. ''The new location is about a half-mile from the current site,'' Mosby said. ''We're very excited to expand to a SuperCenter. This is a good indication of the type of demand Wal-Mart has in that area.'' A Giant Eagle store is located near the mall.
The Morning Journal article continues:
A second Wal-Mart SuperCenter is currently under construction in Elyria at the new Chestnut Commons, located at SR 57 and Chestnut Ridge Road. The 206,558-square-foot store is anticipated to open in March. ''We look forward to providing the city with expanded products,'' Mosby said. Another 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter is nearly complete in Oberlin. It is slated to open sometime this month.
Let’s re-cap, shall we? One Wal-Mart in Avon. Two brand-spankin’ new SuperCenters in Elyria. One soon-to-be vacant Wal-Mart in Elyria as well. Oh, and Oberlin?
The Oberlin store at U.S. Route 20 and state Route 58 is opening after two years of protesting from some local residents. Many are concerned that the world's largest retailer would hurt business at local stores. Opponents of the store sued the city, claiming Oberlin acted improperly when it signed the development deal with the company, but a court ruled the city did nothing wrong.

That’s 4. All within, at most, a 15-20 minute drive of each other.

And what about my hometown, Lorain?

Either on their own or with some suggestion, two residents of the neighborhood that Wal-Mart wanted to move into last year have filed suit against the City of Lorain. Their complaint? That because Lorain voters defeated the zoning ordinance that would have allowed a Wal-Mart to be built, their property values have been negatively effected. They are asking the court to either have the City of Lorain pay them the difference between the amount that their homes are actually worth and the amount that they could have sold the property to the Wal-Mart developers for - or that the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas overturns the referendum vote of the people. Guess what folks? Lorain is getting a Wal-Mart. City of Lorain officials’ its Administration and a majority of City Council members want a Wal-Mart here. It was only “the people” – the citizens of Lorain, Ohio - who by a great majority nixed the original deal. My guess is that Lorain’s City attorneys will not put up much of a fight, and if given the choice between paying out approximately a combined 1.1 million dollars to these two home owners or “allowing” Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Janas (who is up for re-election November 7th) to negate, reverse, throw out, nullify, overturn the will of the people in this matter, with the City of Lorain so close to fiscal takeover by the State of Ohio – the decision will be an easy one. Janas is Republican, and according to our mystery commenter, “Republicans love Wal-Mart!” I agree. When Judge Janas overturns the referendum and allows that neighborhood to be rezoned – Wal-Mart is free to waltz right in where they wanted to be all along. Corporate greed and legalese always trumps the will of the people. My City is full of these stories. That gives us, for those keeping score, a total of 5 Wal-Marts, each within miles of the other – all competing with each other for limited dollars. Not only will they drive out any local Mom and Pop businesses along with the weaker chains, but they may even end up feeding on themselves. How long before Bentonville decides to close one or more down and we’re left here with yet another empty shell of a Big Box store? Wal-Mart doesn’t really mind being driven out of business. As long as it’s another Wal-Mart doing it. In Lorain County Ohio, where there’s a will – there’s a Wal-Mart.

3 Responses to “In Lorain County, Ohio: Where there’s a will, There’s a Wal-Mart”

  1. […] one would expect, Mr. Scott Bakalar saw the writing on the wall years […]

  2. […] The Writing On The Wal Blog Archive In Lorain County Ohio Posted by root 17 minutes ago (http://thewritingonthewal.net) According to ronald mosby senior manager of public relations for wal mart before you leave a reply have you read our comment policy the writing on the wal is proudly powered by wordpress Discuss  |  Bury |  News | The Writing On The Wal Blog Archive In Lorain County Ohio […]

  3. […] and an empty big-box that no one wants. In my home state, the count is now up to 12, one, is a store fought by the then No Cleveland Walmart […]

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