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Walmart Comes In Under The Radar In Encinitas

Aired 9/29/11 on KPBS News.

Walmart will open a new store in Encinitas without going through a public review; critics accuse the company of using stealth tactics to get a permit.

Walmart did not have to go through a public process to open its new store in Encinitas, because it will move into a former Home Expo building vacated three years ago.

Residents who attended an Encinitas city council meeting this week to protest the new big box store learned that - because Walmart met all the zoning requirements - a permit had already been granted.

Encinitas Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said Walmart will bring in tax revenues. He said opponents are simply demonizing the company.

“I don’t buy into this obsessive demonizing of one particular retailer over another,” Stocks said, “Why don’t we demonize all retailers that are big box, if that’s what we’re going to do.”

Stocks said Target has a bigger store just across the road.

But Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth says Target had to go before the council to get a permit. She wanted more public input on Walmart’s plan.

“I was absolutely taken by surprise when I found out that a permit had been issued,“ she said.

Barth said the store used stealth tactics to gain a foothold in the community. She said it may simply cannibalize tax dollars from existing businesses, rather than generate new revenue.

Barth said the city missed an opportunity to engage the public and potentially bring a movie theater to the site, because residents currently have to drive to San Marcos to see a movie. Ultra StarTheatres had expressed an interest in the site.

Walmart has agreed to wall off about 8,000 square feet of the building to be left as a “deadzone “ because the parking lot is not big enough to accommodate a big box store the size of the entire building.

The new store will be less than 100,000 square feet, about half the size of a Walmart Superstore.

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