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Walmart Getting Oriental Water? Up To Town Board
Opponents Say It'd Be Insult To In-Town Businesses
September 28, 2013
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I
n Oriental, It’s All About The Water, reads the slogan on the Town Hall website. That could also describe the latest Walmart Express matter before the Town Board. At issue: whether the Walmart store planned for just outside Oriental’s town limits can tap on to the Town’s water system.

walmart land fulcher
The land, now owned by Chris Fulcher, on Hwy 55/Broad Street Extension where Walmart is planning to open a Walmart Expresss, about 250 feet outside of Oriental. Though the store would be outside of Oriental, Walmart has inquired about tapping on to Oriental’s water system. In background, the older of Oriental’s two water towers, right near the town line.

At the Town Board’s agenda meeting on Thursday September 26, some members of the Board and the interim Town Manager signaled a willingness to provide town water service to the Walmart Express store. That vote could come as soon as the Board’s Tuesday night meeting.

A handful of Walmart opponents attending the agenda meeting said they wanted the Board to not provide the water. Denying Walmart the water, they say, would be at least a symbolic gesture of solidarity for the in-town businesses likely to be hurt by the much larger retailer moving in just up the street. They say the Town Board has not shown much concern for the in-town businesses.

Out Of Town Walmart And In Town Water

The 12,000 square foot Walmart Express that is planned would sit on Highway 55 land now owned by Chris Fulcher, just over 250 feet from the town line – and from Oriental’s property taxing authority and from Oriental’s zoning (which wouldn’t allow a building of that size).

Oriental’s Town Board, from left, Michelle Bessette, Warren Johnson, Mayor Bill Sage, Barbara Venturi and Larry Summers at the September 26 Agenda meeting. Commissioner Sherrill Styron was absent. It is the Board that decides is Walmart gets to tap on to Oriental’s water system, which would be cheaper than tapping onto the county system.

If a new store were within the town limits, there would be little question that it would get water from the town water system.

But if a business outside of town seeks to get on the Town water system, the Town Board has to weigh in, according to the Town’s Water Service ordinance. (Contrary to an interpretation reported earlier, the ordinance does not require that Walmart be annexed in to town, nor pay property taxes, in order to get the water.)

Oriental Water A Bargain For Walmart

Walmart has two alternatives to the Town of Oriental’s water. The retail giant could have a well dug and rely on well water. Or it could extend a pipeline down Highway 55 toward the intersection with Straight Road where the county water system’s water flows. Interim Town Manager Wyatt Cutler said Thursday that such a pipeline could cost Walmart $20.000-$25,000 to install.

From the plans for Walmart Store 7207, the Walmart Express outside Oriental.

In contrast to the cost of being on County water, tapping in to Oriental’s water system would be much more of a bargain for Walmart.

The Town would charge $3,800 for the tap-on fee, Town officials say. Cutler estimates the store would consume water at a rate equivalent to three households. The monthly bill for that water, charged at the business rate, would be an estimated $60-70 per month, says Cutler. That works out to $720-840 a year that Walmart would pay the Town’s water system.

Resistance

During the Public Comment section of the Agenda meeting, three of five residents who spoke urged the Board to not take on Walmart as a water system customer because of the harm the much bigger store will present to businesses within the Town limits. They said the Town Board should be more concerned about those businesses than it has indicated so far.


Bama Lutes Deal, owner of the restaurant, Village Food Emporium, told the Mayor and Board that they don’t legally have to provide water to Walmart. It was more a courtesy, she said. “It seems that you’d be extending a courtesy to something that is a threat to your community. That,” said Deal, “seems counterproductive to me.”

If a business outside the town limits seeks water service from the Town, Deal said, the Board should first take in to consideration whether that store “would have a negative impact” on the in-town businesses. She suggested the Board had not looked closely at Walmart’s impact and was “missing the point of who it represented.”

Bama Lutes Deal, an Oriental resident and restaurant owner, appealed to the Board to not grant water service to Walmart because of the impact the store outside of town would have smaller stores and businesses in town.

(A week earlier at a special Board meeting, at least 10 of 12 speakers said they opposed the store coming to Oriental’s outskirts. Opponents of the store presented the Board with a petition signed by more than 300 people who said they did not welcome the store. The resolution passed by the Board that day did not reflect that view. After that meeting, Commissioner, Larry Summers defended his position of not opposing Walmart because he said that while 60% of those in town that he spoke with opposed the store coming, he estimated that 80% of those outside the Town limits welcomed it.)


At the September 26 Agenda meeting, Bama Lutes Deal tried to prod the Board to consider the people and businesses in town. She said the Board’s “obligation should be to the constituents located within the town limits.”

The Walmart Express facade that would face Hwy 55 just outside Oriental. The store would be 12,000 square feet. The plans were sent to Pamlico County’s Building Inspector in mid-September.

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Posted Saturday September 28, 2013 by Melinda Penkava


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