Via Hi-Desert Star:
Speakers call store proposal ugly, predatory
Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:46 am
By Jimmy Biggerstaff, Hi-Desert Star
JOSHUA TREE — Several residents spoke in opposition to a proposed Dollar General store at the Municipal Advisory Council meeting in the community center here Thursday, Sept. 20.
The store is proposed for construction at the northwest corner of Sunburst Avenue and Twentynine Palms Highway on an empty lot.
The only person who spoke in favor of the project was Julian Gonzalez, who said he thinks the community needs the services the store would provide, instead of requiring residents to ride the bus to Yucca Valley or Twentynine Palms to shop.
There was a nearly unanimous raising of hands when he asked who would not shop at the new Dollar General.
Janet Tucker said she doesn’t have a problem with a dollar-type store in Joshua Tree, but rather with the architecture, which she characterized as ugly. Tucker predicted the presence of the store would hurt tourism.
Several speakers expressed their concerns that such an business would open downtown to other corporate businesses.
“Joshua Tree is special,” Tom O’Key intoned. “Keep it special.”
Thomas Fjallstam pointed out the new Wal-Mart Supercenter is being built on the eastern end of Yucca Valley, near Joshua Tree, to serve residents here.
Others commented about how the project was not specifically named a Dollar General in the county permitting process. “They’re clever little devils,” MAC member David Fick opined.
Kerri Tuttle, who introduced herself as a California Environmental Quality Act specialist, referred to the name change on the project as an illegal bait-and-switch.
“They didn’t ask you what you wanted or how you felt about it,” Tuttle told the audience. “They’re giving you what they want.”
Tuttle said the corporation uses predatory business practices that will drive competition out, then raise prices.
Speakers described the importance of preserving the unique character of the community, including its retail corridor, against the uniformity of many small downtowns.
Eva Soltes said Chinese leaders exploit their workers to manufacture the products discount stores sell.
Fick said he was told no county planning staff members were present at Thursday’s meeting because they were concerned it would set a precedent. “I think Joshua Tree is going to set precedents in other ways,” he said.
“Decision makers are 80 miles from here,” Fick said in a reference to proposals to give the community more say in government decisions.
Alan Rasmussen, this area’s field representative to the county Board of Supervisors, clarified after the meeting the reason the county did not send a planner to the meeting is it is too early in the process.
At the end of the meeting, Rasmussen said he would provide a report of the meeting to his boss, Supervisor Neil Derry. Rasmussen asked the audience for a show of hands of who was in support of a Dollar General store in Joshua Tree. Only Gonzales raised his hand, with an estimated 40 arms waiving in opposition to the store.