Stop Arvada Walmart comes up short

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After a month of circulating petitions and collecting thousands of signatures, the grassroots group Stop Arvada Walmart was not able to collect enough to put the Arvada Plaza redevelopment to a referendum.

Stop Arvada Walmart sought to put the public-private partnership portion of the redevelopment of the Arvada Plaza, including a Wal-Mart, to referendum and onto this November’s ballot so residents can vote on the issue.

The public-private partnership includes a public improvement fee collected in lieu of the city’s portion of the sales tax from the new Wal-Mart store as well as 20,000 additional square feet of retail space and Independence Center.

The PIF, which would be in place of the city’s 3 percent sales tax, would then be refunded to California-based owner of the Arvada Plaza, Industrial Realty Group to total $5.8 million of the $9.1 million necessary to cover public improvements to the property.

Without enough signatures to put the PIF to referendum, it will become a city ordinance.

“Unless you have a lot of money or volunteer time, the process is nearly impossible, having gone through the process to get something on the ballot,” said Rob Hoge with Stop Arvada Walmart.

“Our failure to get it on the ballot is a reflection, not that the people don’t support it, but that we didn’t have enough volunteers, money and time to get the number of signatures.”

The group had 30 days to collect 7,246 signatures of registered Arvada voters for the referendum to be considered on the ballot; the deadline for the signatures was Aug. 22.

City charter mandates that petition deadlines be set for 30 days after a letter of intent is filed with the city, Arvada Communications Manager Wendy Forbes said.

By Aug. 22, the group had collected thousands of signatures, Hoge said. The group chose not to disclose the exact number.

“If we had another two or three weeks it’d be on the ballot,” Hoge said.

“Or if we had $25,000 to pay somebody full time to be out collecting signatures, I’m confident it’d be on the ballot. I’m disappointed from the standpoint that we can see the numbers are there and this is a failure of not having enough volunteers to get them.”

Hoge said, in most of the Stop Walmart petition circulators’ experiences, if residents opened their doors or stopped and talked petition circulators in public places, 70-80 percent of residents would add their name to the petition.

“We understand some people are unhappy with the results of the new ordinance that will go into effect, but we hope that we can all come together and support the fact that the area does need to be revitalized and we hope it can bring elements to the area that even the opposition would like to see,” Forbes said in reference to the redevelopment of the north side of Ralston Road.

People volunteered to circulate petition and signed petitions for a variety of personal reasons, Hoge said, whether it be not agreeing with Wal-Mart, concerns about traffic and crime in the Arvada Plaza location or not agreeing with the location for the approved Wal-Mart.

Susan Shirley, a volunteer petition circulator who collected just under 500 signatures on the petition herself, said she joined the group after seeing picketers at the now-closed Safeway, 9517 Ralston Road.

“I loved that Safeway and shopped there for over 20 years,” Shirley said. “I was heartbroken when it folded up. I’ve not been a fan of Wal-Mart for a very long time now. I started picketing with them and went to the July 15 council meeting and the next step was to get it to referendum.”

Though the group was not able to collect enough signatures to put the PIF to referendum and on the ballot, Stop Arvada Walmart is not done.

“Our plan is that we’re going to run someone for (Councilman-at-Large Don) Allard’s seat as an anti-Wal-Mart candidate and we’re going to continue to oppose the Wal-Mart and make sure all plans are complied with, that they comply with all environmental regulations, ADA regulations and oppose any further changes to the plans, and we’ll be vocal about that,” Hoge said.

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