The Gold Anti-Walmart Flyer: the Truth or Misinformation?


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,  

Anti-Walmart Flyer
Anti-Walmart Flyer

On Friday I found a gold-colored sheet of paper taped to my front door when checking my mailbox.  The flyer was from the newly formed 300-member Facebook group called “Stop Arvada Walmart”.  The FB group can be viewed online by anyone with a computer, but it only accepts posts from those who share the goal of stopping the construction of another Walmart in Arvada.   

I suspect the flyer is being distributed to many, if not all, of the neighborhoods along the central Ralston Road corridor — although the one you find on your door may not be gold colored.

I looked forward to reading it when I found it, but I quickly became disappointed when I read the “What YOU need to know about Walmart/IRG part on the back of the flyer.  Gold was indeed an appropriate color for the flyer.  Personally, I found it to be a goldmine of misinformation. 

I had hoped for a higher level of accuracy and useful information from the group — and at least some impartiality.  After all, I think that citizens who organize, collect and share information, debate their needs and options and then petition their elected representatives on behalf of their neighborhoods can go a long way in improving how local government works and help make Arvada a better place to live.  I wouldn’t take the time to write news articles for our neighborhood association if I didn’t think that kind of public involvement wasn’t essential to the well being of our community. 

And I can think of many reasons why someone would not want to shop at Walmart or even go as far as preventing others from having that opportunity.  Walmart’s labor practices, its non-union stance, its use of temporary workers, competition with the few family-owned businesses that still sell the same products, its wealthy stockholders, its overseas suppliers and foreign bribe scandals, its outlets’ attraction for petty crimes like shoplifting — it’s a pretty long list.  But it’s the list of things I thought about when I first heard Walmart wanted to move into the Plaza, and I’ve probably overlooked few items. 

But the gold flyer doesn’t mention any of those things.  Instead it talks about unacceptably high traffic volumes, all the new tax revenues generated by the outlet leaving the City of Arvada, a taxpayer bailout for the developer, and a loss of quality-of-life for the City.

Fortunately for Arvada, none of those things are true.  None of them.  Arvada deserves better than this kind of misinformation. 

“The current road system surrounding Arvada Plaza cannot accommodate a huge retail store like Walmart . . .”  The truth is that the roads can handle the traffic and they can do it easily.  Except for the extra time needed for cars to turn onto and off of Independence Street at the intersection with 57th, the traffic data just doesn’t show a problem.  Traffic volumes along Ralston Road have fallen from 30,000 vehicles a day to about 23,000 vehicles today after 72nd Avenue opened up in 1998.  Only some of those 6,000 plus new trips will be on Ralston Road and the four-lane road is expected to be able to handle up to 40,000 vehicles a day without serious congestion problems.

Here’s the City’s traffic projection chart dating back to the opening of 72nd Avenue.  Have a look at it and decide for yourself how much additional traffic that arterial can handle.   (click on image to enlarge)

06_191

“The revenue from Walmart will NOT stay in Arvada.”  The truth is that nearly half of the new sales tax and new sales fee revenues Walmart generates will be going to Arvada.  That alone will be generating about $830,000 a year for the City and AURA (not for the developer) for the first 11 years.  But there’s more.  After 11 years, Arvada’s amount gets bumped up to an estimated $1,730,000 a year — 100% of the sales revenue.  All of that new money will be used by AURA and the City to redevelop the rest of the Triangle and improve police services. 

And there is still more:  Walmart will be employing 250 people, many of whom will be living and spending their paychecks in Arvada.  And that number doesn’t include Walmart’s suppliers.  Nor does it include the workers needed for nearly a year of construction and stocking the new store.  Nor does it include the use taxes the City will be collecting on the millions of dollars of construction materials needed to build the new store.  Nor does it include the expected increase in sales tax revenues from nearby non-competing businesses, such as restaurants, that are expected to see an increase in their business.  

I could go on further with the substantially increased property taxes we will be receiving from the urban renewal area for the next 15 years, State and federal corporate taxes on profits and the like.  Did I remember to mention the economic impetus for new development in the Triangle the project will provide?  Did anyone forget that IRG’s $9.1 million in development obligations will be spent in Arvada and nowhere else?  But I think I’ve already made my point on where the revenue is going.  The only thing Walmart gets to take back to Bentonville is the taxable corporate profits on its investment — if there are any. 

WMFlyer001_1

“Walmart/IRG wants a deal that is a taxpayer bailout of a private corporation’s land speculation.”  They may want it, but they are not getting it.  Not even close. 

Walmart gets nothing.  That’s right.  Nothing. 

As for the brownfield developer, IRG, I can’t understand why they are not walking away from Arvada’s offer.  It’s hard to make a profit when you have to spend $9.1 million up front to earn $5.8 million in possible sales tax rebates over 11 years.  That arrangement is going to put the developer at least another $3.3 million in the hole.  So have to ask myself why is IRG not instead selling its interest in the Plaza at its $7.5 million market value to whomever will take it?  If they did that they could take a $1.5 million tax loss on the sale and save themselves another $3.3 million in investment costs.  IRG’s investors should be better off by selling their interest, saying goodbye to Arvada and shaking the dust off their feet as they go.

My dictionary defines a ‘bailout’ as a rescue of a corporation from financial distress.  Arvada isn’t bailing out any corporation.  The way the numbers look, if IRG is being bailed out by anyone, it’s being bailed out by Walmart, not by the taxpayers. 

“We all want Arvada to be prosperous, but not at the expense of our quality of life, the small businesses, and the character that make this town such a wonderful place to live.” Well, that’s probably the most truthful statement in the gold flyer.  But it also implies that accepting Walmart will mean ruin for our neighborhoods.  The truth is just the opposite. 

AURA expects Walmart to be the economic engine that drives new development in the Triangle.  And there is good reason to believe what the authority is telling us. 

Not only will its construction immediately clean up the Plaza, but it will start bringing in $600,000 a year for AURA to use to redevelop the remainder of the Triangle — and even more after the IRG obligation is paid off.  All of that new money will be used to bring in the small businesses and other developments that everyone seems to agree we want for this area.  And it will raise the character and feel of this area from what former Council member Lorraine Anderson has aptly described as “a shabby hole right in the middle of the City” to something that will indeed make our town a wonderful place to live for many years to come. 

The Stop Arvada Walmart supporters who distributed this flyer probably have the best interests of the community at heart, but they are coming up short on reasons why the Arvada City Council should not approve this application.  And the misinformation in this flyer is not helping their credibility or furthering their goal of stopping the construction of another Walmart in the City. 

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE

The next public hearing — and possibly the last for Walmart’s application — is scheduled to be held on July 15, 2013 at City Hall.  The meeting starts at 6:00 pm and room is expected to be crowded.  Parking will be restricted and the meeting may run until midnight.  Follow this link for more information:

https://arvada.org/about-arvada/irgwalmart-application-set-for-city-council-july-15-2013

Or, you should be able to get a live video feed on KATV-8 on your cable service or via the City’s webpage at Arvada.org .  Look for the View Arvada Channel 8 LIVE link on the right side of the screen. 

I’ve already sent my comments in by email so the Council can give my 3-minute speaking spot to someone else, but the deadline for others to do that is now past.

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community regularly posts information on its website at http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ as it becomes available.  Or you can friend us on Facebook.  Our Facebook name is “CLRC Arvada”.  The last time I looked we had about 800 friends. 

John Kiljan, CLRC Notes: 303-423-9875 or jpkiljan@yahoo.com

July 9, 2013

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7 Responses to The Gold Anti-Walmart Flyer: the Truth or Misinformation?

  1. charley ault says:

    Thanks for giving us information from “the other side”.

  2. globalwrite says:

    John, I think there are a couple of issues at stake that you are glossing over here. First, this redevelopment will also cause more traffic on Independence–an issue for those of us in the Highland Homes development which has entry and exit points ONLY on Independence.
    Second, why is the city offering tax money to anyone at all? We have wonderful independent small businesses who have stayed with the Triangle area throughout the Recession and the neglect of the owner of the Plaza. If anyone is offered any tax money, it should be folks like Ace, Mama Sanino’s, Arvada Vacuum, Triangle Liquors, and Santiago’s not to some independent retail giant who is making a decision to move a store to somewhere they believe will be profitable to them..
    Does the Triangle Area need to be redeveloped. Yes. Should we also support the small businesses who stuck with us? Yes.
    Last but definitely not least, is the loss to the Triangle area of recreational opportunities for our children, in the destruction of the pool, the recreation center, and the football field and track lost in the redeveloped Wolf park. In all the discussion of the redevelopment and Walmart, this issue has been ignored.
    Our children deserve to have recreational opportunities beyond soccer and baseball, within walking distance and without threatening levels of traffic Parents who are looking for summer and after school opportunities for their children will not move into the Triangle area as those things have been lost.
    Those of us still in the Triangle area are demanding accountability from our city council. And if you John, are really interested in a liveable Ralston community, you will post this comment on the CLRC blog even if it doesn’t completely agree with you, as a way of promoting healthy discussion of all the issues.
    Christine Duncan

  3. ladyeeyore7 says:

    I have issues with part of your posting. The majority of the reasons you gave for not wanting a big box store are limited to Walmart. Since Arvada/AURA can not tell the owner of the property who to sell to it would seem pointless to argue specifically against Walmart at a city council meeting. I’m sure there are enough postings throughout Facebook on various sites that the city is well aware of how a lot of people feel. What the group is trying to achieve, right or wrong, are reasons why a big box store is not a good fit for that particular location. Laws, statues, codes, TIF’s, PIF’s and so forth can be confusing to those educated in these matters much less the average citizen. So whether their information is completely accurate or somewhat off-base the point is still the same. A big box store, such as Walmart, is not a good fit for that location. My experience with statistics, I worked with medical researchers for many years, is that they look good on paper but rarely fit with real life. While a generic 4 lane road may easily accommodate the quantity of traffic there are many variables that could contest the results. Applications such as lane width, traffic light timing, turning radius, frequencies of traffic lights, conditions and/or maintenance of the roads are just a few options that can alter those statistics dramatically. Did anyone actually try driving a semi-truck during rush hour traffic back and forth on Ralston in the narrow right lane to see how easily it can navigate that scenario without hazard? During the peak years on that report, I believe it was 1998-99, I lived at 52nd & Allison and traveled to 64th & Carr to pick up my child from my parents house during rush hour and the traffic flow was staggering. Just trying to turn onto 58th at the lights could sometimes take 2-3 light cycles due to the line of cars. Those are the statistics that count in this process. As far as the sales tax is concerned your numbers are also incorrect. I’m not sure where you received your tax $ amounts but in Council Bill 13-026 no dollar amounts are referred to and most amounts bandied about on the internet are speculation at best since no one can predict how well the store will profit. On page 3 it states “”Reimbursement period” shall mean that time from the Opening Date to the earlier to occur of (a) payment in full of the Development Reimbursement Package; or (b) twelve (12) calendar years from the opening date.” I believe you incorrectly stated 11 years. Section 3.2 A. states that AURA will receive 40% of the sales tax proceeds within the project area and 3.2 B. states that the developer gets 60%. Now presuming that the sales tax collected is the $1,730,000 that you stated above 40% is $692,000 which is $138,000 less than your calculation. The additional .46 of the 3.46% city sales tax goes specifically to the police department according to other documentation from the City of Arvada. I recall in a previous posting that you wrote where you referred to city sales tax as 3% rather than 3.46 %. I could go on but I think you understand my point. Its good to have your facts perfect but sometimes the purpose is just as important.

  4. James Spray says:

    And Now, a Few More Stories From Wal-Mart Employees
    In the past, we have brought you several volumes of true stories from Wal-Mart workers, describing what life is like as an employee of the biggest retailer on earth. Union-busting and heartless corporate behavior stories abounded. Today, we bring you a few more plaintive wails from inside the Walton empire. http://bit.ly/16o9TYf

  5. John Kiljan says:

    I really liked your response, Christine. You brought up some very pertinent issues that weren’t covered in my flyer critique.

    Let’s address traffic first. I know it’s hard to go through a 300+ page report, but try to have a look at the “Traffic Impact Analysis” report at ArvadaTriangle.org for the second submittal. That report shows that only 5% of the new traffic Walmart will generate will end up on Independence Street. Independence can handle that kind of volume increase.

    But there are two things Independence cannot handle. One of those is the increased wait times at intersections and the safety problems those times bring with them. It’s no secret that there have been some horrific accidents on that hill caused by out-of-control vehicles. I suspect most are caused pull-outs from the side roads and driveways. Where else in the City do residents have to put up brick walls and guardrails to protect their properties?

    You have to scroll down through about 40 pages of the file to see the intersection reports. They are not good. It’s obvious to me that some signalization is going to be needed at 57th and Independence to deal with clearance problems. As you may know, that intersection was signalized once before, but the signal was pulled out after traffic volumes dropped off. I was disappointed to see that issue not dealt with in the Preliminary Development Plan (PDP).

    In my own comments to the Council, I asked them to make their approval of the PDP conditional upon review of the signalization needs of the intersections on Independence. I hope they follow that advice, and this hearing is best time I can think of to ask them to do that.

    The second Independence problem is the long-term growth in the area beyond what the Walmart-generated traffic the report deals with. The entire Triangle is slated for redevelopment, not just the Plaza. There is a new park going in. There are a lot of new apartments being build by the Arvada Ridge Station. We may get a recreation center built in the Triangle as well as apartments for seniors. There is the traffic to and from the new commuter rail station itself. All of those things will tend to push up the traffic volumes on Independence Street and I suspect that increase will be a lot more than the small amount Walmart by itself generates.

    As to the question of why offer a developer a subsidy at all, the answer I keep getting is pretty straightforward: Without a subsidy, you won’t get anyone to build here. It is cheaper for a developer to build on greenfields at the edge of the suburbs where there are no 50-year old buildings to tear down and utilities to replace. And the stores that build on those greenfields know their customers will probably have more in the way of disposable income to spend in their stores.

    What I really liked were your comments on local recreational needs. You are right on target. I hear the same thing again and again from the members of the neighborhood association. When we had our annual CLRC meeting about this time last year, most of the meeting time was used by our 30 attendees to hammer on our relatively new City Manager on this same subject. They were saying pretty much what you have just said here.

    I believe it was that meeting that led to the recreational needs survey that the City and the CLRC just finished up. We’ll be reporting on the results of that survey in an open-house meeting to be held on July 24th at the old library (now the Arvada Community Food Bank) at 6:00 pm. The meeting is open to all.

    Thanks for taking the time to write.

    –John

  6. John Kiljan says:

    Hello Jayme (ladyeeyore7),

    Thanks for taking the time to write. You mentioned three things in your comments: the need for a big-box anchor for the Plaza, traffic capacity and narrow lanes on Ralston Road, and the figures to support the revenue going to the City and AURA from Walmart’s investment.

    I’m no expert on urban redevelopment, but everything I’ve heard or seen tells me it’s critical have to have a big-box anchor — or two, or three — to support a viable shopping center. The old Lakeside shopping center made that pretty clear. If you’ll remember they had an anchor store at each end and no city sales tax to hold back sales. It did a booming business until Target pulled out and was replaced by a grocery store. But it still managed to survive until GE Capital shut down Montgomery Ward. Then nothing could save it. Today it’s a new Walmart and new sales taxes that is bringing that area back to life, and I’m glad to see that neighborhood getting that old eyesore cleaned up and the new retail they deserve.

    You are correct in saying that the design elements of Ralston Road are essential to having the road be able to handle its full traffic capacity. Walmart or not, Ralston Road should have been widened years ago. Other needed safety improvements have also been put off for way too long. Some of the road doesn’t even have sidewalks and the much of the parts that do are too narrow and too close to the travelled lanes to be safe to use.

    I’m concerned that the current plans to widen Ralston Road will still leave lanes that are too narrow. And that the plans to put in real usable sidewalks that will connect from the K-8 school and Wolff Park to the new Ralston Central Park and rebuilt Triangle are taking way too long to put in.

    You’ve probably already read my comments to Christine about the need for better intersection control on Independence for safety reasons.

    Let me help you with the Walmart math here so we are at least working with the same numbers. Walmart won’t tell us how much their expected annual retail sales are expected to be, but the City/AURA have made their own estimate — although they are not telling you what that is in the Council packet. But you can figure it out in 30 seconds on a pocket calculator. It takes $50,000,000 in annual sales to generate a 3% PIF of $1,500,000 a year. As near as I can tell these numbers only apply to Walmart and not to AutoZone or other retail outlets that may end up on IRG’s property. Those should bump the numbers up even higher, but right now we don’t have an estimate of how much that will be.

    The City will be collecting 3.46% on Walmart’s retail sales. That’s the amount of the PIF plus the sales tax for the police department. Actually, if they do it like Lakewood does, they will be collecting slightly more than that. Lakewood applies the PIF to the sales tax as well — sort of a tax on a tax — but this is close enough. That comes to $1,730,000 a year. The City then divvies up that $1.73 million in three ways:

    $230,000 (13%) goes to the Arvada PD for law enforcement,

    $600,000 (35%) goes AURA to reinvest in developing the rest of the Triangle, and

    $900,000 (52%) goes to paying off the IRG obligation — that’s 60% of the PIF.

    That’s right, 48% goes straight back to Arvada.

    Then all that changes after IRG has been repaid for their work. It is expected to take 10 years and 10 months ($5.8M divided by $900K) to fully reimburse IRG. Considering that the $50 million a year sales figure is somewhat of a WAG anyway, I rounded the number up to 11 years even.

    Fifteen years from now, AURA’s TIF authority in the Triangle expires. The improvement district was only set up to run for 25 year total, and for ten years AURA wasn’t able to do much in the Triangle except buy up some odd lots and try to keep some existing tenants on. At the 25-year time limit, development in the Triangle should, by rights, stop. But with the proposed PIF agreement with the City, AURA should have enough funding to finish the redevelopment of the Triangle.

    I couldn’t be happier with that agreement. I know most of the members of your group won’t agree, but for me it means that whatever inconvenience we suffer from having a Walmart built in our neighborhood will be repaid to us many times over in coming years. And when I do finally have to leave this neighborhood because of old age, I’ll see in left in a better condition than it was when I first moved here 30 years ago.

    Thanks for listening,

    –John

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