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Neighborhood Protests Wal-Mart Supercenter

DALLAS -- Wal-Mart may have hit a roadblock in its bid to open a new urban Supercenter here.<P>A group of community leaders from neighborhoods surrounding the proposed store, which would be built on an 11-acre site near downtown Dallas in the Oak Lawn...

DALLAS — Wal-Mart may have hit a roadblock in its bid to open a new urban Supercenter here.

A group of community leaders from neighborhoods surrounding the proposed store, which would be built on an 11-acre site near downtown Dallas in the Oak Lawn neighborhood near Love Field airport, are opposing the $218 billion retailer’s plans, citing fears of increased traffic gridlock, noise and crime.

Both sides are taking the battle before the Dallas Plan Commission this afternoon at a hearing that will help decide whether to grant Wal-Mart critical zoning changes that are required before the store can be built. The final authority is the Dallas City Council, which will take up the issue later this summer.

The city’s planning and development staff has recommended that Wal-Mart’s request for a zoning change be denied unless Wal-Mart modifies its plans to remedy residential adjacency issues. The city staff estimated that the Supercenter will inspire an extra 11,000 vehicle trips per day in the area.

Wal-Mart is trying to quell the neighborhood opposition with a massive mail and Internet public relations campaign extolling the virtues of the proposed 220,000-square-foot Spanish-style Supercenter, a radically designed two-story building on Mockingbird Lane near Lemmon Avenue that features an underground parking garage and front doors that open onto a city sidewalk instead of a sprawling asphalt parking lot.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said, “I acknowledge that there’s some opposition to the new store, but there’s also lots of support. The feedback from residents in that area is nearly 10 to 1 in support of our new store. We’ve gone back several times and made changes in our plans to address the traffic concerns. We’re on our 13th design for the new store and really like the latest version. It addresses all the traffic concerns and includes new traffic lights, acceleration and deceleration lanes, street improvements and other changes.”

But Brad Hughes, a homeowner in the prestigious and historic Greenway Park neighborhood near the proposed store, and owner of a multiline women’s apparel showroom at the International Apparel Mart here, said he’s against Wal-Mart coming into the neighborhood for several reasons.

“Traffic in this area is already out of control, with overcongested roads and daily traffic accidents. Imagine what it will be like when an additional 11,000 vehicle trips a day start coming through during peak traffic hours. I’m also concerned about overflow traffic spilling onto neighborhood cross streets, which is not a desirable situation. Besides the traffic issue, my opposition includes concerns about the mom-and-pop retail operations within a one-mile area of the proposed store. Wal-Mart has the reputation for putting those retailers out of business. As a small business owner, I have empathy with those people.””