Havre Daily News
Any residents or business owners who have hopes of stopping the construction of a 105,000-square-foot Wal-Mart supercenter west of Havre may have missed their boat.
This week, about 100 people watched a free public showing of “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” a documentary critical of a number of the chain's practices, at the Montana State University-Northern Hensler Auditorium. In a discussion following the film, several people asked what could be done to stop the store's construction.
Hill County planner Clay Vincent said today the land has been subdivided, the land's zoning doesn't need to be changed, and the company is moving forward with plans to select a contractor and submit construction plans to the county and the state.
Vincent also said the company hopes to open its store by the holiday season. Wal-Mart officials had said they plan to open by the end of the year or in early 2007. Company spokesmen could not be reached for comment today.
Vincent said public participation was nonexistent when the Havre-Hill County Planning Board held public hearings on landowner Ron Harmon's application to subdivide his property so he could sell a parcel to Wal-Mart. Harmon sold the newly created 12-acre lot west of Kmart to Wal-Mart last month.
“We basically had nobody who came to those at all,” Vincent said.
Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said today that an initial meeting with the County Commission at which Wal-Mart revealed its plans for the store was well-attended by the public. Subsequent meetings were open to the public, but no one came, she said.
All that is left for the company to do is to submit building plans to the county and to the state, Vincent said. The land is zoned industrial, which is an appropriate zoning for the store, he added.
“It's (Wal-Mart's) choice if they want to continue to build the store,” Vincent said. “If the people of this area want to purchase stuff there, that's their choice, too.”
The company will consider bids for a general contractor later this month, Vincent said.
Wal-Mart has not requested any property tax abatements, Bessette said. If a request is made, public hearings will be held, she added.
The supercenter will include groceries, a garden center, gas station and tires and lube center. A Wal-Mart spokesman has said the company will consider any other additions to the store, such as a hair salon or eye doctor, as the construction process moves forward.
The reaction from business owners and shoppers has been mixed. After the world's largest retailer announced plans to build here, some said the store will draw shoppers here from along the Hi-Line and keep Havreites from traveling to Great Falls for weekend shopping trips.
Others worry that the store will undercut local businesses and drive mom-and-pop shops out of business.