Click here to listen to eight Coalition supporters discuss why they oppose the Wal-Mart expansion.
Filed under Personal Stories
Until the March 24 Planning Commission meeting, I had never distinguished between the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the conditional use permit (CUP). To my knowledge, they always come together and get passed together. Even though there were many flaws in the EIR, the bar is set so low (“good-faith effort”) that this EIR met the requirement and was certified.
What is confusing is the granting of the CUP. Everyone agrees that the expansion will aggravate already bad congestion in the area (a significant unavoidable adverse impact). To approve the CUP, some overriding benefit to the community must exist. But I didn’t really hear any from the Commissioners. Although Mr. Tiernan spoke of being a pro-business Democrat (in my mind an Eisenhower Republican) and “freedom” and “choice”, he did not seem familiar with nationwide experiences that Walmart leads to fewer choices. For example, after Walmart’s Supercenter opened in Gilroy two years ago, two nearby grocery stores closed. That sounds like one less option to me. And it doesn’t count all the smaller businesses that also died. For more about the subject, view “Is Walmart Good for America?” online.
Although the Planning Director specifically said that only “physical” environmental impacts can be considered when deciding to certify the EIR, neither he nor the Assistant City Attorney pointed out the different standard for the CUP. Only at the end of public comments did another attorney say that the Commissioners could, and should, consider all evidence before deciding – including corporate practices, potential job loss, or lost tax revenues. Maybe it was the late hour (around midnight), but the Commissioners apparently did not hear him. They did not consider the abundant evidence that Milpitas will lose jobs and tax revenue, that Walmart is a poor corporate citizen, or that responding to global climate volatility with a remote store that encourages more driving is nuts. Instead, they passed the CUP without identifying the overriding benefit of the expansion to Milpitas.
Hopefully, the Commission’s decision to approve the CUP will be reviewed by the City Council members. They know enough to consider all aspects of a project – including the social, economic and community impacts to Milpitas and its citizens.
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