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Letters: On Town Water To Walmart But No Annexation
Special Water Treatment?
November 2, 2013

Oriental’s Town Board voted 4-0 on November 1 to provide water service to Walmart’s planned Express store outside of town. Walmart will not be required to annex in to town upon completion of its 12,000 square foot building as the Town had stipulated earlier in October. Walmart balked at that and the Town Board acquiesced. Instead, Walmart’s grocery store will give the town a “donation” every year of the amount of money it would have been taxed if it were in town and subject to Oriental property tax. (If the property were assessed at 1 million dollars, the Mayor said, the tax would be $2,000.)

Members of the Board described it a win-win. Mayor Sage said a negotiating committee from the Town engaged in a conference call with three representatives of Walmart on Thursday because Walmart said it couldn’t meet face-to-face and had to meet this week.

While the Town required annexation for Ruth Ireland’s Town-n-Country grocery 27 years ago, and required annexation for three homeowners on White Farm Road in recent years when they sought town water, the Board did not require that of Walmart. That means that unlike businesses in town, Walmart need not comply with Oriental’s Growth Management Ordinance. With this intentional action, the Board sets a precedent; future, out-of-town landowners who want Town water could ask for what Walmart got — not having to annex and be held to the Town’s development standards.

The decision has sparked some letters.

Dear Editor:

The Town Board decision to give Wal-Mart water gives the Town nothing it did not already have. Wal-Mart would use LED lights to save utility costs. It would plant trees. And its representative had already told the Town Board — in the first open meeting — that Wal-Mart would make donations to the community.

Most disturbingly, however, some have chosen to say that Wal-Mart will benefit the African-American community, and lower income people with jobs and low-price goods.

Who have we invited into our community? Wal-Mart jobs are mostly low-paying, and many Wal-Mart employees do not make enough to support their families. Like many other low-wage employers, Wal-Mart relies on the fact that its employees can supplement their incomes with public assistance. That is, that taxpayers will take up the slack.

Sure, many Wal-Mart goods are low-cost. Many of those goods are manufactured in places like Bangladesh, where worker safety is so badly neglected that hundreds have died in factories that make goods for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s behavior is unfortunately typical of companies who unfairly seek competitive advantage. (I recently spent six months studying the behavior of such companies.)

It is at best condescending, and even ethnocentric, to say that Wal-Mart meaningfully serves any part of the community. And to couple that sort of assertion with the express or implied statement that Wal-Mart opponents are racially-biased is irresponsible.

Most importantly, the people who have built businesses in this community have the right to expect that all who enter the market will be forced to compete on equal terms. Failing to insist on compliance with our growth policies harms people who have a right to expect consistent application of the rules.

Sincerely,

Michael E. Tigar
Oriental
11/5/13

Dear Editor,

If Oriental is a business and Walmart wants to “work” for Oriental, you’d think Oriental would interview Walmart on Oriental’s terms.

Instead, Oriental commissioners have bent over backward to accommodate Walmart in every way.

Don’t want annexation, Walmart? We’ll change our original offer (flip flop?) so you don’t have to because Walmart needs all the business help it can get, the poor floundering company. When Walmart said it had to meet last week (by phone, too, rather than in person) not this week, residents were not given a reason why Oriental did not stand firm on a meeting date. Walmart can wait, can’t it?

Commissioner Venturi explained on the news that this was a business decision. But, hiding in plain sight is the business decision made by Mayor Bill Sage and the rest of the Town Commissioners to meet on Walmart’s terms, without listening to town residents.

We know the reason, even if it wasn’t given: commissioners wanted to come to a decision before the election, and Walmart wants papers signed before anyone has a change in mind.

No study has been done on the harmful economic impact of Walmart on the town (and the whole county), which would be expected of any town board [that cares for the community] to require.

Oriental, election day is tomorrow. Vote like it’s your last vote, because it could be. We can still save this town.

Charis Hill
Sacramento, CA/raised in Oriental
11/4/13

Congratulations to the Town Board for making the right decision in allowing Walmart water rights, it was the right thing to do. It’s a shame that the Town & Country grocery store had to agree to annexation 27 years ago, but times change and things change much to many people’s dismay. I’m excited to have a Walmart come to town.

Mary Wilhelm
Merritt
11/02/13

After reading what the Town Board gave Walmart today, it comes down to you got what you voted with for in the last Town election for members, mayor and their ability to make appointees. If you don’t like what happened today, remember you can vote for change next Tuesday.

However if you are pleased with today’s outcome, you did get LED lights in a soon-to-be-parking lot, perhaps some voice in the landscaping/screening, and maybe Walmart’s yearly donation to the town taxes. Oh, and yes, what about that precedent for future water-want-to-haves?

For it or against it, I think what should really prick all town residents is a quote from today’s Town Dock coverage:
“This was described as a “win-win” by the Board. Mayor Sage says he, the Town Manager, Commissioners Venturi and Johnson reached the agreement in a conference call with Walmart yesterday. Sage says Walmart declined to meet face to face and told the Town it had to meet this week.”

Lack of respect to the town of Oriental? “Walmart declined to meet face to face and told the Town it had to meet this week.” What does this say about the backbone of the Town Board?

Good job, Oriental. Forget the dragon. The town signature appears to be going to “Big Business, right or wrong.”

Iris Nance
Columbia, SC/Oriental
11/1/13

Hooray for the Town Board in granting water to WalMart. They can now decide if they want to build here.

We can now have choices . I am looking forward to not having to make that drive to New Bern.

Linda Page
Oriental
11/1/13

To the Editor,

We’ve just been had for $2,000!

That’s all the Town got after 45 minutes. Geez..that equates to $5.48 a day.

Oh, LED lights? Pretty much everyone is using them as it saves money.

And once again a rush to get a deal done that didn’t need doing before next week’s election. So what was the motivation? Walmart wants to build on Chris Fulcher’s land. It kinda brought back memories of the land swap.

Please do not vote for any of the incumbents running. Let’s clean house and put the Town of Oriental to rights.

Barbara Stockton
Oriental
111/1/13


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