Yesterday was the ground breaking ceremony for the controversial Oro Valley Marketplace. The project was delayed when a $23,000,000 tax rebate approved by the town council was sent to the voters. The initiative in favor of the rebate passed overwhelmingly after a massive public relations campaign paid for by the Phoenix based developer Vestar.
Oro Valley Marketplace was touted as a high quality project but the developer was careful not to commit to which stores would or would not be involved. Many local residents were surprised when it was finally announced that a Wal-Mart Supercenter would be going in at the site.
Most people that I have talked with were hoping for something a little higher end but they are not ready to jump out of any windows.
Some people are getting near the edge and have set up several web sites. One of them can be found at Let Oro Valley Excel. There you will find a link to Oro Valley First. The page encourages support for local businesses but quickly devolves into classic Wal-Mart bashing.
(I was surprised to learn that Wal-Mart lowers the value of surrounding residential properties. I wonder what the million dollar homes in Tucson National would sell for if there was not a Wal-Mart located in the vicinity. Rich people must be delighted that they only have to pay $1.4 instead of $1.6 for their winter golf house just because there is a large retailer down the street.)
The Oro Valley First has a place where you can register and pledge not to shop at the Wal-Mart or even any stores at the Oro Valley Marketplace. I wonder what will happen with all those names and addresses in the future. At the bottom of the Oro Valley First page it says Vistoso Media, which seems to be connected to Salette Latas.
Salette and her husband Jeff (former Democrat candidate for congress) live in the exclusive gated community of The Estates at High Mesa. (Not exactly the Wal-Mart crowd.) Salette has announced that she is running for a seat on the Oro Valley Town Council. Would I be cynical if I wondered if some of those names and addresses from the pledge to stop Wal-Mart from coming to Oro Valley ended up on a mailing list for Salette’s campaign? It would be a good fit since she seems to be making the Wal-Mart store one of her issues.
Oro Valley is overwhelmingly Republican but due to the non-partisan nature of the vote by mail election it would be very possible for someone like Salette to end up on the council. She may do well by tapping into the community angst about Wal-Mart and the planned Crematorium.
This is a classic battle of the hate Wal-Mart crowed vs. the business / development crowd. I wonder if Vestar will poor a little more money into Oro Valley so that we don’t end up with a partisan Democrat on the council now that they have given her a great issue on which to run.