Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Stalling tactic

City officials should make every effort to speed the resolution of a dispute over a proposed new Wal-Mart store.

January 21, 2004

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It's time for the debate over whether to allow a Wal-Mart store at the northwest corner of Wakarusa Drive and Sixth Street to be settled. The matter should be decided by a court, based on the facts of the case, who said what, what the law says and other pertinent information.

At one point, developers of the tract of land, along with Wal-Mart officials, were led to believe they could build the store at this location. City officials now say they have the right to deny building permits and perhaps change the zoning on this land to prevent the store from being built.

Developers and Wal-Mart have asked for depositions from four city employees; at least one of these depositions was due to be taken last week. However, city officials didn't show up and attorneys representing the city are trying to block the depositions saying they are "fishing expeditions" for the developer and Wal-Mart. The matter now is slated to go before a local judge who will be asked by developers and Wal-Mart to impose sanctions against city officials.

Sanctions may or may not be imposed, but what the developers and Wal-Mart really want is for the question to be settled rather than be drawn out in a prolonged legal battle.

Why not settle the case once and for all?

So far, it is estimated about $500,000 has been spent collectively by the city and the developers/Wal-Mart on legal fees in the long debate. It is difficult to understand why the city would stall any effort to resolve this case. The escalating costs are unfair and unnecessary to city taxpayers who are footing part of the bill, and unfair to the developers.

It is important to get the facts on the table, out in the public, so a judge or jury can sort out the issues and settle the matter. The case ought to be decided on what is right legally, not on whether a neighbor likes Wal-Mart or the developer or on other issues. The developer made commitments based on what city zoning and land-use laws allowed. City officials have said "not so fast" and prevented the developer from proceeding on this project.

It's time to move ahead and, if city officials are being asked to give depositions on the matter to advance the question toward resolution, they should show up at the designated hour and location.

What is there to hide? Why stall the matter when the price tag for both the developer and taxpayers is increasing with every hour the matter goes undecided?

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