Wal-Mart to answer questions tonight: B road spectrum of opinion on retailer likely to converge at Saranac Lake meeting PDF Print E-mail
Written by By JANICE MARRA, Staff Writer   
Thursday, January 07, 1999

SARANAC LAKE — For months, rumors about a Saranac Lake Wal-Mart have been growing.

Tonight, the community will hear directly from a representative of the Bentonville, Ark.,-based company.

Keith Morris, a community-relations representative, will answer questions at a Wal-Mart Welcome Wagon meeting at 7 p.m. in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium.

Greg Vaillancourt, chairman of the Wal-Mart Welcome Wagon, said his group rented the auditorium because they're expecting many community members and officials at tonight's meeting. Wal-Mart is paying the $100 insurance cost for auditorium rental.

Vaillancourt would like to see at least 200 people attend.

"We want to get people who are for and against (Wal-Mart) and those who are in the middle. This is a chance for people to come and ask questions from the source and dispel all the rumors and innuendo."

He said the Welcome Wagon is renting a bus from the Saranac Lake Adult Center to transport senior citizens to the meeting.

The bus will pick up seniors at the Lake Flower Apartments and DeChanteal Apartments and take them to and from the meeting.

Vaillancourt stressed that the Adult Center is remaining neutral in this issue. The rental is being done by Welcome Wagon as a service to seniors who have no other means of transportation.

Vaillancourt and Morris will also appear on today's "K&J Show" on WNBZ 1240 AM, which airs from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

But the big question is whether the retailer will formally announce plans to build a Saranac Lake retail and grocery store.

While Wal-Mart has not held any formal discussions with local officials, a developer believed to be representing the retailer has bought options on three land parcels, all on the outskirts of Saranac Lake.

Morris recently told the Press-Republican that Wal-Mart is "seriously interested" in a Saranac Lake site.

Vaillancourt, who has been speaking to Wal-Mart officials, says he's sure the company will propose a store soon. He's not sure it will happen tonight.

"If they do, I think it's great. The quicker (Wal-Mart) moves on its plans, the better."

Wal-Mart withdrew its plans for a Lake Placid store in October, after five years of intense community opposition.

And some people in Saranac Lake hope the retailer decides to forget the Tri-Lakes region as a whole.

The Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance, or SAGA, opposes Wal-Mart and other mega-retail development in Saranac Lake. The group has been lobbying community members and officials to keep Wal-Mart out.

If a store is proposed, the final decision will likely rest with the Harrietstown Planning Board because all three sites have greater portions outside the village.

The alliance recently asked that Planning Board to place a moratorium on large retail development because SAGA members feel the town's zoning is outdated. The Planning Board has not acted on the request.

The three sites on which options have been bought are parcels on Route 86 near Upstate Auto, Route 86 near Trudeau Road (across from the former Club 86) and Route 3 near Lake Street. The latter two sites are believed to be the ones being most seriously considered.

SAGA spokesman Jack Drury said the group is also working on finding an alternative business to fill the community's retail and grocery needs.

"We're concentrating on lobbying right now."

The alliance is not planning any more meetings soon, but Drury and other SAGA members will be at the Welcome Wagon meeting tonight.

"We're encouraging our membership to attend."



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