Fort Mill Times

'The Wal' is closing in

It's official: Fort Mill Township is systematically being surrounded by Wal-Mart. Literally.

Less than a week after the big box retailer opened a supercenter in Tega Cay, it confirmed plans to build another store about five miles away on Flint Hill Road, off Hwy. 21. Counting the ones planned for Indian Land and Lake Wylie, and the store operating in Rock Hill to the south and several north of us in Charlotte, there will soon be nearly as many Wal-Marts accessible to township residents as there are schools.

When the folks in Bentonville, Ark., identify a high-growth target, they lock in their sights with the precision of a laser-guided missile. It's part of their model for success, which is why no one's surprised the rumors that Wal-Mart was looking at the Flint Hill property turned out to be true.

We don't like it.

Besides the oversaturation and the inevitable negative impact on smaller retailers, there's going to be a long list of other issues to address, such as increased traffic and safety concerns. But that doesn't mean the public has no say. Wal-Mart still has to go to York County officials before plans are finalized, and residents will have an opportunity to voice concerns at public hearings.

Hopefully, county officials will follow the Tega Cay City Council's lead as shrewd negotiators. The city got Wal-Mart to agree to a number of covenants - from architecture and paying for new a stop light, to including space for a police substation. The county would be wise to hold out for Wal-Mart paying for new roads and other needed infrastructure.

Something else the county should do is look at rezoning any remaining suitable parcels to prohibit the development of any more big box retailers. We're all for commercial growth to balance the residential boom and bring needed businesses tax revenue to the county, but there's a number of other alternatives to satisfy those needs.

Among the possibilities we'd like to see come to the township are book stores, an art house movie theater, galleries, specialty shops, activities such as a bowling alley and music venue, and more medical facilities. With a little imagination and lots of determination, the county can work with commercial property owners to make these a reality.