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Hundreds of Watertown Residents Came Out to Vocally Oppose the Proposed Walmart

Fearing increase traffic, dropping property values and other impacts of the box store, people filled the Watetown Library's meeting room Monday night.

More than 200 Watertown residents worried about the possibility of a Walmart coming to town filled the Watertown Free Public Library’s meeting room Monday night.

Fearing that a proposed 92,000 square foot store would bring heavy traffic, pollution and put local stores out of business, resident group Sustainable Watertown hosted the event.

Everyone who spoke at the meeting opposed a Walmart being built on land off of Arsenal and Irving streets.

Rena Baskin, a member of Sustainable Watertown, lives near the proposed Walmart site, but she said everyone in town will be impacted.

“Watertown is only 4.2 miles in size. Something on one side of town affects all of us,” Baskin said.

Fear of Trafific

Baskin fears thousands of more cars being added to Watertown’s roads, as people drive from outside of town to get to Walmart.

“Watertown is known as Crossroads on the Charles,” Baskin said. “We could easily become known as Gridlock on the Charles.”

Customers are drawn from a 15-mile radius for most Walmarts, said Dave Sprogis, a member of the Otis Farms Neighborhood group, an area next to the proposed Walmart site, but one in Watertown would have a smaller drawing area.   

The closest Walmarts are in North Reading (14 miles away) Framingham (16 miles), Lynn (15 miles) and Quincy (16 miles).

The proposed store would include both the merchandise typically found at Walmarts, as well as a grocery section, according to the Walmart webpage for the project.

Having a Walmart in the area would hurt property values, Sprogis said, with bright lights on at night, traffic and trucks making deliveries at night.

“Down the street from Walmart — that’s not a selling point,” Sprogis said.

More Walmarts Proposed Around Boston

Watertown is just one of the proposed sites in the Boston area where Walmart is looking to build new stores. The Walmart Massachusetts website lists Somerville and Saugus as planned stores, and Russ Davis, of Jobs With Justice, said that they have eyed stores in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, too.

“We should be careful not to pit one community against another,” Davis said.

In other areas where Walmarts have gone in, some local businesses have closed, and they have a record of discrimination against women and people of color, Davis said.

The new store would add about $500,000 to Watetown’s tax base, according to the Walmart website, and local contractors would be hired to do landscaping, snow removal and building maintenance.

State Rep. Jonathan Hecht met with Walmart officials, and he said the proposal is not ready for primetime.

“In my mind, they didn’t raise the bar enough to show that the benefits outweigh the costs,” Hecht said.

First Test of New Zoning

The project will be the first big one to come before the town since it adopted the Economic Development Plan in the spring.

The project does not fit into the zoning, which limits the size of the building, plus the site does not have access to the street, right now.

Developers would need to get a zoning change, or a special permit to make the project a reality.

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she does not want to see the town to just allow a box store to come in.

“Why do we have zoning rules if someone can just come in and we say, ‘OK, we’ll change that,’?” Falkoff said. “I’m not down with that.”

District B Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk said the reason for creating the Economic Development Plan was to make sure neighborhoods built near industrial zones were not dwarfed by new factories or retail stores.

“Maybe in Victorian times, people didn’t mind being next door to the stockyards, but I would have a problem with that,” Lenk said.

Falkoff wondered if the strong showing of people opposed to the Walmart project could end the proposal.

“I see a room full of people here opposed to Walmart coming to Watertown,” Falkoff said. “Can we just stop (the project) now?”

Not all Town Councilors attended the meeting, and not all that did spoke. Some residents wanted to know how the Town Councilors stand on the Walmart project.

Baskin said Sustainable Watertown will have more events, and one may include getting Town Councilors on the record about the project.

Barbara L. Baljian October 25, 2011 at 03:10 PM
With today's economy, we need to have a Walmart in Watertown that is so very affordable for Seniors on a limited income, as well as families who are struggling to make ends meet.
MV October 25, 2011 at 03:25 PM
We don't need 3000 cars per day (over and above existing traffic) coming into our town. We don't need a gigantic, ugly store with acres of parking, bright flood lights, deliveries coming at all hours of the night. We have a lot of big box stores already, and 2 malls! We are already saturated with retail outlets... adding more will probably cause existing stores to close, leaving us with blighted, empty buildings. We won't be bribed with some paltry tax money and a small number of low-wage, low-skill jobs that don't even provide adequate health care coverage. No amount of concessions will offset the influx of 3000 cars per day onto our streets. There's NOTHING they can offer that will make the traffic tolerable, and that's just one issue of many.
Bill_Ch October 25, 2011 at 09:21 PM
The argument about needing a Walmart because it's affordable just doesn't fly any more. Recent studies show that prices at Target are as inexpensive as those at Walmart. See: http://www.news-record.com/blog/53458/entry/113337 and http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/07/news/companies/walmart_target_better_price/index.htm. If this is true, adding a Walmart is just redundant. When you add in the increase in traffic all through town, there's just no good reason for having it.
MV October 26, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Also, did you notice how the poll on this page was spammed with "In Favor" votes this morning... and then, throughout the day, the "Against" votes have gone up and up and up? Guess what? Maybe paid WalMart flacks working out of the basement underneath corporate headquarters get a voice in the Patch comments. They don't get a voice in the government of our town.
rena baskin October 26, 2011 at 07:11 AM
Regarding seniors on a fixed income and struggling families: If we need to be frugal, we don’t need Walmart, we just need to be creative and resourceful. First of all, it’s all hype that Walmart’s prices are the lowest, so don’t believe it. Even Walmart knows they don’t have the lowest prices… why else would they offer to price-match any lower price you bring in? Target's prices are generally lower than Walmarts. Here’s a frugal thought: Get creative and group shop! BJs sells wholesale and in large packages, so get a list together for you and your neighbors, split the haul and you'll save money. Maybe other markets and stores would give you a discount if you shop in bulk. We need to think outside Walmart’s big box and save money elsewhere because Walmart’s low prices come with a high cost to the future of our town, and to businesses and residents.
madmilker October 26, 2011 at 02:04 PM
This is NOT SPAM....it's an advertisement for MADE IN AMERICA.... and one cannot do that by investing in Mexico and partnering with people in Hong Kong and China. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JZS/is_6_22/ai_n24984155/
Sonny Beaches October 26, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Ms. Baskin I admire your spunk. But I worry that those who run the Town will retaliate. Please watch your back.
Edie B. October 26, 2011 at 07:59 PM
I wanted to point out Target's Red Card (their store credit card). Carries no annual fee, you get a 5% discount on purchases at Target (which really adds up), and you can designate a school to receive a 1% of your Red Card purchases through Target's "Take Charge of Education" program. As the article in the above comment's link says, "Wal-Mart does not offer a similar program.." These are the total donations from Target's "Take Charge of Education" program through August 2011 (source: https://sites.target.com/site/en/corporate/page.jsp?contentId=PRD03-005164): Hosmer $3,477.56 Lowell $5,941.36 Cunniff $2,485.59 Middle School $810.79 WHS $2,895.75 That's over $15k in 1% donations from Target in checks sent directly to our schools. RedCard holders just need to designate the school. I'm not affiliated with Target, just wanted to mention that it offers competitive prices plus money for our schools.
Amy Vachon October 26, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Those who argue that a Walmart in town will help people avoid the inconvenient trip to Framingham to shop at one are creating an artificial argument. We are not living in a big-box-store desert. We have Target, Home Depot, BJs, etc. with competitive pricing and better human rights policies. We do not need Walmart too. Please do not allow Walmart to enter Watertown and change us into a landscape of consumerist urban sprawl forevermore. We, our kids, our town deserve so much better.
Robin October 27, 2011 at 09:36 AM
A Walmart will increase traffic in Watertown, especially on the roads between Arsenal and the Mass Pike. Traffic in that area is already impossible at rush hour. If we don't stop the Walmart from planting itself in Watertown, the traffic will be like rush-hour traffic all the time. And I can't even imagine what rush hour traffic will be like.
diane woodward October 27, 2011 at 12:44 PM
I can't even imagine the impact on traffic this "Walmart" would have. It's a really bad idea. There just isn't the space for it. This is a hugely congested area and those of us who live close to it would be devastated. I am also against "Walmart" and stores like them for their flagrant human rights violations. Bring back and support small businesses! Please, there's no good argument for the reality of what would result in letting Walmart into this area. We will all lose... Diane W.
Karen October 27, 2011 at 02:54 PM
One of the reasons we chose to live in Watertown was because of the wonderful little restaurants and ethnic shops. A Walmart would change the character of the town entirely - from pleasant town to freeway... Target, Marshalls, and BJ's are all affordable -- what would Walmart have that they don't?
Joe Leven October 28, 2011 at 06:23 PM
The Walmart Plan is totally inappropriate for this location. And indeed this may not be the type of economic development we want in our community at all. The impact of Walmart on Watertown Square would be devastating. This historic area is in great need of TLC and careful development. But for the over abundance of traffic, Watertown Square really is a lovely place and has so much potential as a pleasant human scale neighborhood, business district, transportation hub and park area (the riverfront, the Delta). With a little work and careful development, it could be enhanced as a very pleasant place to spend one's time. The Walmart project would be a decisive step in the wrong direction. We have enough big box stores in Watertown already. We should be trying to build the economic base of Watertown by enabling locally rooted businesses of appropriate scale which share our values and have a sense of responsibility to our community. It goes without saying that Walmart does not fit that bill. No Walmart! No way!
Joe Leven October 28, 2011 at 06:23 PM
The Walmart Plan is totally inappropriate for this location. And indeed this may not be the type of economic development we want in our community at all. The impact of Walmart on Watertown Square would be devastating. This historic area is in great need of TLC and careful development. But for the over abundance of traffic, Watertown Square really is a lovely place and has so much potential as a pleasant human scale neighborhood, business district, transportation hub and park area (the riverfront, the Delta). With a little work and careful development, it could be enhanced as a very pleasant place to spend one's time. The Walmart project would be a decisive step in the wrong direction. We have enough big box stores in Watertown already. We should be trying to build the economic base of Watertown by enabling locally rooted businesses of appropriate scale which share our values and have a sense of responsibility to our community. It goes without saying that Walmart does not fit that bill. No Walmart! No way!
Michael Huber October 30, 2011 at 02:52 PM
We need to have the town councilors all present at a meeting and hold them accountable for their votes. I am strongly against this and have done business case studies on these in the past and no good has come from the building of these large stores. I was never opposed to these stores until completing research on several business cases.
Sonny Beaches October 30, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Why did do do the research and where can we find it? If it convinced you it might convince the Town Councilors. Publish it.
patti November 10, 2011 at 01:01 AM
i could care less if a walmart comes here i think there are much bigger issues in the town than this. i hardly think 200 people at a meeting is a huge turnout. the poor voter turn out yesterday tells the tale of how most of the town could care less about this.
Edie B. November 10, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Patti, when you say you could "care less" about something, it means you actually do care! Perhaps you mean to say that you could NOT care less? Anyway, Patti, did you catch the part where the write-in candidate for Town Councilor at Large lost by less than 100 votes? Voter turnout was indeed low, but a substantial number of citizens voted for the anti-Walmart write-in candidate. Only 200 people might have shown up for the meeting last month, but they are hardly the only Watertown residents who oppose the Walmart development.
K Coyne November 10, 2011 at 02:34 PM
FYI: 200 people showing up for any issue on a weekday is a landslide in this town! There are other issues that I am concerned about too, which I think should be on the minds of many(education/budget) but having a Walmart in Watertown would be something that would change the fabric of the Town(and negatively in my opinion). I already limit my trips to that area due to traffic. Check the local crime today and you will see that a good percent of it is in parking lots of the malls(or in the malls). Walmart has an even poorer reputation with regard to crime in its parking lots.
patti December 06, 2011 at 01:57 PM
no edie it meams it is a non issue to me. really a landslide how many people are in this town anyway? i want to know what else mike mandel stood for thats all. i drive out of the town because the prices are too high here not the traffic that is everywhere when you are close to the city.
K Coyne December 06, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Patti and all, Mike Mandel had a website up almost immediately after he began the write-in candidacy(as opposed to the incumbents John Donohue and Stephen Corbett who did not have any information about their views when running which I find unbelievable and discouraging). You can still see the site and look at 'Why I am running' to see his views on various topics other than Walmart. http://mikemandel.info/ Tony Palomba and Susan Falkoff also had websites with their views and information. How can one vote for candidates when their views are not put out to the public!?
M C Stringfellow December 09, 2011 at 02:21 AM
I grew up in Watertown. I now live in Georgia. There is a Walmart less than one mile from my home. Traffic is terrible. People come from Alabama to shop. Theft is up as well as other crimes. My advice to the citizens of Watertown , Fight to keep Walmart out. Fight to keep your community from crumbling under the onslaught of the almighty dollar. Walmart is know to come into a community, set up shop, put local businesses out of business, then close up shop under the guise of "not a profitable location" leaving the community to fend for itself. It is your town, I no longer live there. I still call it home. It was a great place to grow up and I am sure it still is. Keep it that way.
Rob_Mc December 28, 2011 at 01:48 PM
You missing the fact that the location they want to put the WalMart currently is a 'blighted empty building'.
Foofoo January 25, 2012 at 04:44 AM
I choose to buy a house in Watertown and raise my two children because it had a community spirit were neighbors look out for each other, crime rate is low and good schools. I don't want our little local shops to be put out of business, our roads to be turned into a parking lot with all the traffic Walmart will generate. I am completely against this 'giant' being allowed to come into destroy our community.
John MacNeill January 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM
>The new store would add about $500,000 to Watetown’s tax base, according to the Walmart website... This number was debunked in a story published here just yesterday. >>"Personal property will no longer be taxable, so it takes the wind out of the sails out of the projections that (a Walmart) would be bringing us the same tax dollars that had been in my estimate in October,” Golden said. “Two-thirds of the growth picture is now gone.” Some have said the estimated tax growth for Watertown would be $500,000, but Golden said his estimate was lower. “My number was around $300,000 (in tax growth for Watertown),” Golden said. “Now my number around $100,000.” >>
WallSmart January 25, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I am truly impressed at the number of economists, construction managers, traffic engineers, retail mavens, and social scientists who reside in the Crossroads on the Charles. It makes me proud to number myself amongst them.

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