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On February 25, Springfield City Council voted to approve a rezoning initiative that will allow Walmart to build a Neighborhood Market at Grand Street and Campbell Avenue. In response to the vote, opponents have put together a referendum petition that, if successful, will be used as an attempt to overturn the council’s decision. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.
A referendum petition can only be passed if at least ten percent of the total number of voters in the last election signs the document. For Greene County, that means that 1,787 people must sign the petition within 30 days for repeal to even be a possibility.
Friday marks the first day a local taskforce called Stand Up to Walmart is providing opportunities for Springfield voters to sign the referendum. This morning, members of the group set up a table at the Downtown Market Store. The group will have members stationed at the table all day, until 9:00 p.m.
Christy Youngkin, a member of the taskforce, sits behind the table, with several copies of the petition in front of her. She says she has a few problems with the construction of the new Walmart.
"First and foremost, they’re going to block off the street, they’re going to push traffic into a park and a place where kids are riding their bikes and they’re walking home from school. It’s already a dangerous enough area and we think it needs to be kicked back to no zoning.”
Others say they feel like Walmart is trying to overtake small grocery stores, like Marla Marantz. She works with another local group called Citizens Advocating for Responsible Development.
“Walmart claims to be bringing food to neighborhoods that do not have access to food, food deserts, but in Springfield, they have chosen to locate next to supercenters and in areas that have actually already had supermarkets and grocery stores. They have chosen not to locate in areas where we do have a lack of grocery stores. So I think it shows what their real mission is: food domination,” Marantz said.
Voters from the area trickled in during the morning to sign the form, like Ron and Joan White. Joan says she and her husband are faithful Price Cutter grocery store shoppers.
“Walmart is just circling the city with all these markets. Sometime we will be at their mercy; they could charge us whatever they wanted to, and I resent this market coming in across the street. I feel like it’s just total greed.”
Another resident of the downtown area, Brian Lankin, echoes Joan’s opinion.
“Walmart doesn’t need another store in this town, there’s one that’s two miles away, they can stay right there. They don’t have to take over downtown business. I work downtown at some of the theaters and stuff down there. It’s just easier to go downtown. If they close those places downtown, we have nowhere to go,” Lankin says.
Currently, Springfield has five Neighborhood Markets in the city.
The taskforce plans to set up more locations where people can come and sign the petition. Their Facebook page has more information.
As of 11 a.m., the group had collected around 80 petition signatures.
If the group collects enough signatures, the city council will either repeal the decision or put it up for a public vote. The earliest public election to vote on this issue could be Aug. 6.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.