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North Country News
Wed October 16, 2013
WalMart Opens After 20 Years of Development Disagreements
It took twenty years and numerous legal battles, but the newest WalMart has opened in Vermont.
It was a store that the Town of St Albans wanted, the city of St. Albans initially decried and environmental groups sued over. At about 7:30 Wednesday morning a ribbon cutting officially opened the 150-thousand square foot WalMart in the town of St. Albans.
Developers first applied for permits to build a 126-thousand square foot store in 1993.
What followed was a series of environmental board decisions, appeals and court battles that included arguments over conflict of interest, impacts of secondary growth, compatibility with adjacent land use, the rural landscape and the environment. St Albans Resident Brad Ferland worked with developer JL Davis to bring the WalMart to Franklin County.
Ferland notes that the developer told residents that if they showed they wanted the WalMart he would stick with the project.
St Albans Town Selectboard Chair Bernie Boudreau notes that the city had originally opposed the store and appealed its permit, but a settlement was reached. He says after that a handful of opponents kept the project from moving forward.
Boudreau expects the new WalMart will drive customers to surrounding businesses.
During the decades-long fight, the Vermont Natural Resources Council led many of the court battles. Executive Director Brian Shupe explains their opposition was based on concerns over sprawl.
The store in St Albans opens a day after WalMart announced an 11.8 to 12.8 billion dollar spending plan that includes accelerating the expansion of smaller stores at a faster pace than supercenters in the U.S.