Things aren’t all smiles for Wal-Mart in Columbia lately.
In fact, some might say “no smiles,” or at least that’s what the yard signs say. Community First, a group of residents who oppose the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Park De Ville neighborhood, made themselves known Saturday when they handed out yard signs protesting the new building.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, at the intersection of Fairview Road and Kunlun Drive, Community First began to hand out the 500 signs they had ordered. The group asked for a $3 donation for a sign, which reads “No WalMart on West Broadway” and features an image similar to the Wal-Mart smiley face surrounded by a red circle with a line through it.
By late afternoon, the signs could be seen in yards along West Broadway, in the Park De Ville neighborhood and in the Broadway Farms subdivision, which is located across fromWal-Mart’s proposed development site at West Broadway and Fairview Road.
“They can do what they want, but we’re voting our conscience,” said Ken Baker, a Community First member.
Formed a little more than three weeks ago, Community First wants to raise awareness and support against the new Wal-Mart. The group’s campaign consists primarily of yard signs, a Web site and a petition to be presented to both the Columbia City Council and to The Kroenke Group, the developer of the property. There are more than 100 names on the group’s distribution list.
Community First’s Web site, www.nobroadwaywalmart.com, cites increased traffic and the proximity to Paxton Keeley Elementary School, a church and a church preschool across the street as some of the reasons the store should not be built in the residential area.
Baker said it’s “tremendously irresponsible to build Wal-Mart and cram it down our throats.”
Craig Van Matre, attorney for The Kroenke Group, could not be reached for comment.
Community First members understand that the land is already zoned for commercial development and that their opinions may not change anything, member Jeff Knowles said, but they want the community to be involved and express its opposition.
“There are other locations for them to build, and if they were really concerned about being a good part of the community, they wouldn’t build in that spot,” Knowles said.
Members of Community First say they don’t oppose the development of the land and they aren’t anti-Wal-Mart, but they don’t want to see a Wal-Mart Supercenter built there.
“I’m not opposed to commercial development on the property,” Baker said. “I know it’s going to happen. I just think a Wal-Mart is inappropriate.”