by John Kiljan
Dear CLRC members and friends,
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)
“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.
“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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
July 9, 2013