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Publish Date: 10/23/2005

Longmont City Council Ward 2 candidate Sarah Levison, left, helps residents unload recycleables at the Eco-Cycle meet-the- candidates open house in Longmont on Saturday. Times-Call/Ben Woodruff

Wal-Mart on political minds

LONGMONT — The four candidates for Longmont mayor offered widely divergent positions Saturday in reaction to news that Wal-Mart is planning to build a second Supercenter in the city.

Incumbent Mayor Julia Pirnack said Wal-Mart should be welcomed because businesses are best-suited to decide where to set up shop. And Les Pierce said the city should be happy the store isn’t proposed for another nearby city.

But Tom McCoy and Glenn Spagnuolo said they think the city should try and discourage Wal-Mart from building a Supercenter and Sam’s Club at County Line Road and Colo. Highway 119.

A Supercenter is already under construction at Colo. Highway 66 and U.S. Highway 287, and news of a second store was a hot topic of discussion at a meet-the-candidates open house at Eco-Cycle’s Martin Street recycling center Saturday morning.

Pirnack said she’s frustrated people think the city should be in the business of legislating which stores are permitted to open their doors in Longmont.

“Why should seven people on the city council tell people what store they should shop at?” Pirnack said. “Where do we get off dictating where people shop? That’s up to the market.”

But McCoy and Spagnuolo said they feel the city should be trying to protect locally owned businesses because no one else is.

McCoy said that if elected, he would use his power and sway as mayor to try block Wal-Mart from opening the second Supercenter at the city’s eastern edge, and would push to have the company put the Sam’s Club at the side of the former Hajek Chevrolet dealership on Main Street.

If Wal-Mart opens a second Supercenter, officials have said they would likely close the existing standard store next to Twin Peaks Mall.

“It makes no sense to me, what it’s going to do to Twin Peaks Mall,” McCoy said.

McCoy said he’d work with the Tri-Towns and Mead to craft an agreement saying that no matter where large stores are built in the area, all would share in the tax revenues. That would reduce competition between municipalities and prevent Wal-Mart from playing one town against another, he said.

Revenue-sharing agreements between and among Colorado municipalities are relatively rare. Locally, Louisville and Superior have such an agreement regarding the Superior Marketplace, where taxes from the SuperTarget, Costco and other stores are being used to rebuild McCaslin Boulevard between them.

Conventional wisdom from Longmont city leaders says that big-box stores should be persuaded to set up shop within city limits because the stores will be built in the area regardless.

If they are built outside the city, Longmont won’t have as much sales tax revenue to spend on police, fire and other vital services, the argument holds.

Spagnuolo said the city should invest in small businesses, perhaps farms or even housing developments, to bolster its revenues, rather than worrying about losing Wal-Mart to another city.

“It’s not Wal-Mart I have a problem with,” said Spagnuolo. “It’s the way these companies do business. There’s ways to generate revenues in the community, rather than just relying on sales taxes.”

Pierce said he believes Supercenter shoppers will come to Longmont for the big-box stores but stay for the restaurants and local businesses.

“If we didn’t get the super Wal-Mart and Dacono did, guess what, people would be shopping in Dacono,” Pierce said. “You’ve got to think positive about it. it’s going to bring business to the rest of the other companies in the city.”

The land for the proposed Supercenter is already zoned for a shopping center, but the project will likely require city council approval following hearings before the Longmont Planning and Zoning Commission.

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