Monday, December 24, 2007

Wal-Mart Worries about Aesthetic Impact of Lowe’s Home Improvement Center

“We chose the current Wal-Mart store location over ten years ago because of its natural beauty” say’s Wal-Mart District Manager George Deitz. But now a proposed Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in Cobleskill, NY threatens that very natural beauty. The Lowe’s store will tower over Wal-Mart on a nearby hill, dwarfing the 12-year old big-box store, bathing its newly rehabilitated concrete façade and vast parking lot in a sea of hazy yellow phosphorescent light. This “monstrosity” as Dietz calls it, threatens to darken Wal-Mart with its shadows during the day and blind the store with its lights during the night.

“This suburban sprawl has got to stop” Dietz laments. “When we chose this location, there was nothing here but farms, now there’s car dealerships, gas stations, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and now Lowe’s. It’s like Wal-Mart is being swallowed up by ugly suburban sprawl”.

The real tragedy, according to Dietz, is that Wal-Mart just finished remodeling the interior and exterior of its Cobleskill store. The Wal-Mart exterior just received a major facelift in which its familiar blue and gray was replaced by a more humble and Earthy brown and tan. But Dietz asks, “Who will enjoy looking at Wal-Mart’s exciting new façade when there’s an ugly, behemoth, big-box store looming over it”?

A long-time Wal-Mart employee recounts memories of sitting outside on breaks in the smokers’ shack looking out upon the rolling pastures of the farm just over the hill. “It was just so relaxing, it literally helped to recharge me to go back to work”. But now Wal-Mart employees will look out of their smoking shack and see a dizzying whir of traffic and blinding phosphorescent lights.

A local historic preservation group has issued a scathing critique of the impact that Lowe’s would have on Wal-Mart. They are urging the Town and Village to work together to make sure that the proposed Lowe’s does not adversely impact enjoyment of Wal-Mart’s striking concrete façade.

According to Dietz, “That’s all I’m asking for. We just spent a ton of money painting our entire building brown and tan so that it would be more of a pleasure to look at, and we don’t want to see a Lowe’s come in and spoil that view for everybody”.


Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. That nastly ol' Lowe's store will make it just so much harder for the tourists to find the unique local beauty that is Wal-Mart!

Anonymous said...

A lot of people in this area travel to Amsterdam, Schenectady, Oneonta to shop at home improvement stores. Let's keep that sales tax money here and conserve gas too!! All we have is Stock that caters to so called professionals for what they are worth in this area and Ace with limited selection and high prices. Welcome Lowes!!!

Sean Thomaston said...

"Let's keep that sales tax money here and conserve gas too!!"

Brilliant! The sooner we allow Lowe’s to come in and shut down all the locally owned hardware stores (Middleburgh Hardware, Ace Hardware, Schoharie Hardware, etc.) the better. Think of all the money people will save on gas not having to walk to them!

The local economic pie in Schoharie County is just so big, I'm sure no one will notice when Lowe's takes a bite.

Yeah.. welcome Lowe's!

Anonymous said...

Loews has proposed to be built using earth tones,not the usual blue and gray, check the specs.

Anonymous said...

"Brilliant! The sooner we allow Lowe’s to come in and shut down all the locally owned hardware stores (Middleburgh Hardware, Ace Hardware, Schoharie Hardware, etc.) the better. Think of all the money people will save on gas not having to walk to them!"

I think I remember that WalMart was going to shut down Selkirks and - wow! - it is still there. Imagine that! These smaller hardware stores do not offer all the same products/services as a large home improvement store. The small stores can survive if they focus on customer service (and that HUGE pedestrian clientele). I'll be sure to let you carry my 4x8 sheets of plywood down the sidewalk for me next time I have a job. Stop trying to legislate for your own utopia and let the capitalist system work. If you do not want to patronize Lowes then don't. Walk from Richmondville to Cobleskill and carry all your shit home while enjoying the view of the industrial windmills. Be sure to give yourself a pat on the ass for being the good little environmentalist you think you are.

Anonymous said...

-- and if you think Lowes and Home Depot are not currently taking a bite out of the County economic pie - you are kidding yourself. You'll run into people from Schoharie County at the surrounding county home improvement stores all the time. Right now we just do not get the sales tax revenue from those consumers. Hey, if people do not shop at Lowes, they will have to shut down. Don't think that will happen? Maybe these stores offer things people want - isn't that a novel idea?

Sean Thomaston said...

You know we’ve come a long way as a society when the idea of pedestrians walking to a hardware store is denounced as “utopian”.

So maybe Selkirk’s didn’t go under in the face of competition from Wal-Mart, but plenty of other local businesses did. The end result: less choices for consumers, fewer places for pedestrians to walk to and more people dependent on low-paying retail jobs instead of opportunities for local entrepreneurs to make a decent living. Meanwhile, the Waltons become some of the richest people in America. That’s your capitalist system in action.

Do people in Schoharie County travel out of the county to shop at Lowe’s and Home Depot? Sure they do. They also travel to Albany to shop at Crossgates Mall. Do we need one of those too? We’d certainly see more sales tax revenue.

By the way, why is it that local governments are scrambling to get every sales tax cent they can while billionaires like the Waltons get tax cuts from the Bush administration (not to mention $46 million in subsidies to build the distribution center in Sharon)?

Nevermind…you just keep believing in your capitalist system.

Anonymous said...

"Do people in Schoharie County travel out of the county to shop at Lowe’s and Home Depot? Sure they do. They also travel to Albany to shop at Crossgates Mall. Do we need one of those too? We’d certainly see more sales tax revenue."

This misses the point. The economic and demographic characteristics to support a Crossgates Mall in Schoharie County do not exist. If it did then yes, we might consider having a similar place. The characteristics needed for a Lowes must exist and that is why they want to locate here. Look, I'm all for a pedestrian friendly downtown, but we cannot achieve it by limiting competition and by forcing people to shop a certain way. I am sure it would be nostalgic to have our milk delivered to our doors, drive-in movie theaters, ice delivery and other nostalgic services from the "good ol' days". Things change and the consumers should determine what types of stores exist, not legislation. If you want to limit square footage of individual buildings, fine, but do not just outright ban certain retailers because they have been successful. Allow competition to come in and if someone thinks they can provide a needed or better service (and the consumers respond) - so be it. If a business cannot make it, then they adapt or die. Why should a small, local store have a monopoly in any area if their service stinks and their prices are high? The capitalist system (which is yours too unless you are not a US citizen) has worked pretty darn well so far. The ice deliveryman probably cursed the invention of refrigeration, but things change. If you do not support certain retail types then do not shop there, but do not penalize those of us that choose to by limiting the very choices for shopping that you tout need to be protected. I go to Lowes because I know I can choose from a large selection of products that are in stock. The hours are also convenient. I choose not to go to Ace at certain times and I choose to go there at certain times. This will not change, but now when I spend money at Lowes it will be local sales tax revenue and a shorter trip. I'll still use Ace and I think they can survive. Stock may struggle, but that is because the customer service there stinks! If Lowe's does not offer what I want and Stock changes its atmosphere - who knows? I'm rambling on here. Competition - good, limiting choices - bad.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what your thoughts would be in regard to Walmart in Schoharie County. If the Superstore and the Distribution Center closed, and no other similar business was allowed to replace, do you think the roughly 300 jobs lost would eventually be replaced? If so where - by a revitalized Cobleskill full of small businesses? Just trying to get more insight on your line of thinking.

Sean Thomaston said...

You’re hearing me wrong.

Of course I’m not advocating that we shut down Wal-Mart immediately and expect the people that work there to find new jobs Downtown. We didn’t get into the mess we’re in now overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it overnight either. At the same time, the people employed at Wal-Mart and other big-box stores aren’t exactly on easy street.

You (and a lot of other people) talk about the benefits of keeping sales tax revenue in the county, what about the benefits of keeping small businesses in the county? I would rather see independently-owned deli’s, sporting goods stores, grocers, electronics stores, hardware stores, lumber yards, bakeries, pharmacies, toy stores, clothing stores, etc. that are owned and operated by local merchants and that offer a wider range of goods in a more community-friendly atmosphere. The idea that this is dismissed as “nostalgic” and even “utopian” scares and sickens me and I feel no particular need to accept it as inevitable. It’s not capitalism, or “free enterprise” when huge vertically-integrated, politically-connected corporations multiply across the land crushing competition. The Wal-Mart’s and Home Depot’s out there get every break imaginable and then the little guy is told to “adapt or die”. I know it’s easier to shrug your shoulders and say, well “that’s capitalism, that’s progress”. It just makes more sense when you rationalize it like that instead of actually thinking about what’s going on.

Since much of Wal-Mart’s success comes from not paying their employees a livable wage, and since Wal-Mart is this country’s largest private sector employer, I propose we make it a little easier for people to form unions. Let people form unions through card-check instead of voting. Wal-Mart has proven highly adept at manipulating union organizing drives and elections, but the National Labor Relations Board refuses to enforce the law. All I’m saying is let’s even the playing field a little.

Why can’t communities (like Cobleskill) establish linkage programs for developments like Lowe’s. Make them sign community benefits agreements; make them agree to pay a living wage to their employees; make them agree to make contributions to a downtown rehabilitation fund since they are going to be directly contributing to Downtown’s fall.

People and communities have rights in a democratic system. Free enterprise is not the law and it doesn’t mean people have to sit by and watch multinational corporations destroy communities, pay people lower wages and ruin the environment in the process.

Anonymous said...

I would rather see independently-owned deli’s, sporting goods stores, grocers, electronics stores, hardware stores, lumber yards, bakeries, pharmacies, toy stores, clothing stores, etc. that are owned and operated by local merchants and that offer a wider range of goods in a more community-friendly atmosphere.

Note to Sean--
Last time I looked Ace Hardware had 100 million in net profits and that was in 2003. Hardly mom and pop as you make it out to be.

Anonymous said...

Hang on to the dream, but sorry - it is inevitable. Do you travel?Just take a look around this country and the world. These large stores are not going away. So maybe they should change the way they operate, but a lot of small businesses are sleazy too. Just because they are small does not make them better. Do you think there is any chance for union employees in a small independent toy store? If a large store is not available in one community, people just drive to where it is available. Most of the large big box businesses started out as a small "mom and pop" and other small businesses will continue that trend.

Oneonta seems to have a good balance - a vibrant main street and an "anywhere USA". Cobleskill can have it both ways. Cobleskill is not a resort community with high income shoppers that can afford to support just smaller stores.

My question did not imply "overnight" as I stated "eventually be replaced". My point is that people have moved here for these jobs, they did not necessarily lose a job in a small store first. Study the wages of the WalMart employees versus other stores downtown. Is there really a huge difference? The small stores pay a living wage?

Sean Thomaston said...

I said: Do people in Schoharie County travel out of the county to shop at Lowe’s and Home Depot? Sure they do. They also travel to Albany to shop at Crossgates Mall. Do we need one of those too? We’d certainly see more sales tax revenue.

You said:

"This misses the point. The economic and demographic characteristics to support a Crossgates Mall in Schoharie County do not exist."

No. You've missed the point here. I don't care about the economics of where businesses choose to locate. That's their business, not mine.

The point I was making was that just because a given number of people travel for a particular good, doesn't mean we have to provide that good locally so people don't have to travel.

I'm much more concerned about the larger economic picture, the one Lowe's and other big box stores don't care about. That is, the economic IMPACT.

Just because there is enough demand to sustain a particular business, doesn't mean that it is in the best interests of the community to allow that business.

Competition can be a good thing. And we need jobs too. But how many of the jobs will be filled by potential entrepreneurs working for min. wage, unable to compete with Lowe's and Wal-Mart?

Sean Thomaston said...

Schoharie County: squeals like a stuck pig when someone proposes wind farms, but can't wait to pave over its farms to make way for suburban sprawl.

Think, Dammit!

Anonymous said...

No YOU think - do you know how much environmental destruction a wind "farm" causes? You just keep supporting the wind theory without taking reality into consideration. In response to your latest economic revelation - Did you just pick this up in one of your classes? Keep being the king of Cobleskill and dictate to all us poor stupid folk how the economy works. Ignore the arguments that do not fit your academic view of how things should be. Who decides what businesses are good? Can you fill me in on what you are shooting for?

Anonymous said...

And because you continue to spout off that industrial wind is good and have opened up that issue here you get my rant on Richmondville. The Times journal editorial was right on today about true intentions in Richmondville. From the start the powers in the town engaged in a campaign of discrediting and putting down anyone that was not in favor of industrial wind turbines and this effort continues. When the town board had the chance to appoint someone to the town board they did not pick a person with an open mind on the issue. They certainly cannot select a person that is openly leaning against industrial wind and they will not select a person in the middle, but they had no problem selecting a person that openly expressed support in a public meeting. In Richmondville it is all about giving the public the appearance of caring about concerns but making sure any board has a pro leaning majority so the outcome ends up being what was wanted from day one - - a Reunion Power project. There is already a group of decision makers in place that have this outcome in mind and anyone against them is a fool that must be beaten. It is all about defeating individual people that are hated for expressing their views instead of honestly reviewing the wind issue at hand and making good choices for the community. Some of the people for it know that they are protected and to hell with the people living near the potential project areas that can be sacrificed in the name of getting money. They pretend to be interested in these large scale world problems but when they find out the true story we see that it is actually all about the money and the “global reasons” are a lie. Their “experts” are the sales people for the wind industry, and anyone else with information that trys to counter these “experts” is an anti kooky moron that just enjoys arguing and cant be trusted. There seems to be no problem trusting the wind industry for the truth. Wake up: these people are selling a product. Do you really think they are going to tell you all that is bad about their product? Some of the people for it have good intentions and actually think they are going to do something good for the environment by supporting no matter how miniscule the impact will really be. In my view most of the pro people have not researched the issue and walk around throwing out comments about getting off oil when that reality is far fetched {but it sure sounds good}. It won’t be noisy they say after visiting a site for 5 minutes on a clear day. How about vibrations? Have you ever heard a car with the bass kicking approach your house at night? Does it get your attention for a few seconds? How about dealing with that constantly at different intensities? Your whole body feels it but it is not noisy. No thank you. Once it is in place it cannot be reversed.
Thank goodness for the few free thinking souls mixed in like Dick Lape, Larry Zaba, John Pentergrass and Bill Lancaster. Lets hope some others are really out researching the issues. But in the end I fear these folks will be knocked down by the people that have either been put in place because their mind is made up or the ones still involved that wanted any industrial wind project from the start.

Sean Thomaston said...

First of all, industrial wind farms do not cause nearly as much environmental destruction as you seem to believe, and this is what annoys me about this whole debate. It's not that I'm an advocate of developing industrial wind turbines in Schoharie County necessarily. I'd rather see small kilowatt micro wind turbines built in rural areas and industrial-sized wind farms in more urban/industrial areas where they may cause less disruption to local residents concerned about quality of life issues.

Having said that, I think the kind of conspiratorial nonsense that your spouting is a product of the divisive politics of Neid and co., and I think the goal has been to take honest debate off the table.

I'm not a bad guy here, I'm not working for the big bag wind power companies and I don't even really care if wind power comes to Richmondville. I just don't think wind power is the worst thing in the world, in fact all of my research tells me we could benefit from it.

Funny what you find out when you research something with an open mind...

Anonymous said...

Who doesnt think they have an open mind!?!

Well at least we agree that small systems are the best way to go.

Don’t put down Neid and Company for exposing a closed government system. There never was any honest debate intended or put on the table until residents figured out what was going on and forced it to be discussed. The town of Richmonville came real close to adopting a bad law that favored big wind interests over residents. There was {and still is} a conspiracy and the conspirators have done a good job at spreading the blame to Neid and Company. People with a true open mind should listen to what Neid and anyone else has to say instead of attacking based on personality.

It is clear that you and other people would like a higher cause achieved with big wind and that is admirable. I just happen to think focusing on big is not the answer. The wind companies have masterfully exploited a good cause and continue to sell it to the public and politicians and environmentalists for their own profit. That makes me sick. Others just find it easy to give in because they favor any and all types of development.

Richmondville has a bad track record for enforcing the zoning law they have now. Once a large project is built and if there are problems, I have low confidence that any law will be used and enforced correctly in Richmondville. If it can’t be done right then I say stay away from it. If Richmondville starts proving that it can handle the small issues that impact the town now then maybe someday they can handle a large project. They have not earned that confidence yet.

Sean Thomaston said...

Who doesn't think they have an open mind?

I'm not even going to bother debating that with you, as you are obviously quite set in your way of thinking..

wind turbines aren't going to ruin our area and cause heart attacks because of their low-frequency noise pollution, or any other of nutty things people have said to whip up fear.

You accuse wind power companies of trying to make a profit and local politicians of wanting to get more revenue.

Do you care that oil companies are out to make a profit? If you're suggesting that the government simply nationalize our entire energy sector, I might agree. But until that happens, green energy solutions are going to have to come from the market, and that means somebody's going to have to make a profit.

Should local politicians NOT be worried about getting revenue in to lower taxes, to provide better services, or maybe build a new Town municipal building? I think a PILOT payment may be selling the area short a little bit. Do I think that the community should make a fuss in order to extract a better deal from Reunion Power (or any other big company that wants to do business here)? Certainly.

But to go nuts and act like wind farms are the most horrible thing anyone has every proposed is the wrong way to go about it.

If you're worried about Richmondville not being able to handle things, why have Neid run against Bernocco to get Barlow elected? Is Bernocco not the most qualified and experienced person to be Supervisor?

As far as people's personalities are concerned, I actually think that plays a big part in local political conflicts like these.
It always seems to be the same people who go to the Town meetings every week to complain and hear themselves speak.

If people are in love with the sound of their own voice, that's okay. But at some point, sane people need to start showing up and saying something too.

Anonymous said...

oh well...we'll put it to rest and I'll move on. Have a good life - it's your blog so you can have the last word.