I totally don’t know what to make of this story about a group of folks in a northwest Houston subdivision who are trying to halt the construction of a 24-hour Wal-Mart in their vicinity. On the one hand, looking at the enclosed map of the area, it’s unclear why Wal-Mart thinks they need another store there. And you don’t really have to try hard to get me to dislike the idea of Yet Another Megastore paving over a swath of green space.
But I have to say, the people they quoted in this story seem to be vying for the Least Sympathetic Aggreived Homeowners I’ve ever encountered. Here are a few samples to give you the gist:
Northwest Harris County residents say the proposed Wal-Mart will ruin their tranquil suburban neighborhood of cul-de-sacs and uniform brick houses.
“We moved out here because it was quiet and it is away from all the hustle and bustle, which is just on the other side of the tollway,” Susan Kight said.
It’s also where the land is cheap and easy, which is why Wal-Mart already has so many locations there. I’ve written about this before – the down side of buying land out there in the undeveloped territories is that you may some day wake up next to something nasty, whether it’s a concrete batch plant or a 24-hour superstore.
“I’m really afraid for our children’s safety,” said Chris Peters of Willowlake as her son Ryan, 16 months, and daughter Hailey, 3, scribbled messages such as, “Wal-Mart Do Not Hurt My Trees.”
She was among those who are now boycotting Wal-Mart.
“I have not shopped there in the last two weeks,” Peters said. “If it goes in over here, we plan to never shop there again.”
Which is your right, and I applaud you for taking a stand. It’s just that your stand would be a bit more principled if you’d cared about someone else’s trees. Is it OK if Wal-Mart kills someone else’s trees?
Kight said the store also will bring in undesirable shoppers, including criminals, from another Wal-Mart at U.S. 290 and Hollister Road, which residents think will close when the supercenter opens.
“The people that shop there are lower class, lower income,” Kight said. “All the perverts are going to see our children.”
Nancy Witmer of Willowlake, who attended Monday’s meeting, is also worried about who will patronize the new Wal-Mart.
“I don’t know what kind of people shop there 24 hours,” she said. “That’s not the kind of people I want over here.”
Jeebus. “Lower class”? “Perverts”? “Not the kind of people I want”? They’re not building a strip club, they’re building a freaking Wal-Mart. You know, where some of your friends and neighbors have been shopping until their own personal trees got threatened. That sound you hear is the last vestige of my sympathy taking a hike.
Local architect and city planner Peter Brown, who has researched Wal-Mart, said residents have some hope of making a case against the store by focusing on preserving wetlands and problems with drainage, safety and traffic they say the store will create.
“In terms of creating an attractive, livable community, there’s nothing worse than a Wal-Mart,” Brown said.
The irony of a master planned subdivision built on top of those same wetlands complaining about drainage problems caused by Someone Else’s Development is just too rich.
Go back to that original quote by Susan Kight, who says her share of God’s Little Acre is away from the “hustle and bustle” of the tollway. The tollway exists because of developments like her Willowlake subdivision and all the others that get plopped down on empty land. Sooner or later, people complain because it Takes Too Damn Long To Get Anywhere from where they are out in East Nowhere, so they raise a hue and cry until the powers that be see fit to underwrite a nice, wide road. Now the mobility problem is solved, which makes the area more attractive to other developers, who in turn look to build Wal-Marts and the like. And here we are, with the original residents complaining about Too Much Development, which incidentally has led to Too Much Traffic and eventually to the need to expand that not-so-nice-and-wide-anymore road.
Houston is a growing city. That’s a good thing. We’ve got a lot of undeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and that’s also a good thing. It’s just that we do such a half-assed job of making sure that current development will not cause avoidable future problems. In the same section as the Wal-Mart story is this one about how residents of another northwest Houston neighborhood have waited 17 years to get proper drainage put in and will likely have to wait another six years at least. Why wasn’t drainage put in when the land was developed? Because the developers aren’t responsible for that. No rule exists to make them do it or to consider it. That’s the sort of thing that helps make housing cheap around here, but as with everything else you get what you pay for.