Residents of Stoughton, Wisconsin, have come together under the banner “Uff-da Wal-Mart” to fight the company’s plans to turn a nearby cornfield into a massive supercenter. Uff-da is a Norwegian expression of disdain.
In mid-July, Uff-da Wal-Mart scored a significant victory when the City Council adopted a 90-day moratorium on big box retail development. The ordinance temporarily bans development of stores larger than 50,000 square feet. It was unanimously endorsed by the Planning Commission and enacted by a 7-5 vote in the City Council.
Stoughton is community of 12,500 about 20 miles southeast of Madison. With significant private and public investment in recent years, the town has managed to maintain its lively downtown—one of the few active Main Streets left in the region.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced plans to build a 200,000-square-foot supercenter on a cornfield just outside of the town’s limits. In order to proceed, Wal-Mart needs the town to annex and re-zone a 185-acre site.
Stoughton already has a small, 40,000-square-foot Wal-Mart. The company has said it will close the store once it opens a new supercenter. A similarly sized Wal-Mart store in Viroqua, Wisconsin, was abandoned five years ago and remains vacant.
Uff-da Wal-Mart contends a supercenter will destroy the community’s local businesses and small-town character, exacerbate traffic and storm water run-off, and lead to higher property taxes due to the burden on roads and public services.
The moratorium will give the town time to study the impacts of big box retail and to consider adopting permanent regulations that could, for example, limit the size and location of retail stores and require developers to submit to economic and community impact reviews.