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Calexico voters to decide on fate of ‘big box' ordinance

May 02, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — In a unanimous vote, the Calexico City Council added the "big box" referendum to the general election ballot for March 2002.

This action by the council Tuesday will give Calexicans the chance to decide if they want a Super Wal-Mart in their town.

Wal-Mart sought the referendum because its wants to expand its north Calexico store or move to a new local location. The "big box" ordinance, passed in February by the council, stood in Wal-Mart's way.

The council decided not to repeal the ordinance and instead, "will allow the people to decide," according to Mayor Pro Tem John Renison.


The "big box" ordinance stated that any store of more than 150,000 square feet could not devote more than 7.5 percent of floor space to non-taxable items.

A Super Wal-Mart, by design of the Bentonville, Ark.-based company, is usually close to 200,000 square feet and devotes more than 7.5 percent of space to non-taxable items, the majority of which are grocery items.

On Tuesday, Calexico Wal-Mart Manager Phil Aubry indicated the store won't be expanding soon.

Wal-Mart had the right to call for a special election in no less than 88 days after its petition was authorized, but waived that right because there are no immediate plans for expansion.

The referendum was authorized when City Clerk Lourdes Cordova determined Wal-Mart supporters gathered more than 1,400 signatures of registered Calexico voters in favor of overturning the "big box" ordinance.

Mayor Victor Carrillo thanked Wal-Mart for waiving the right for a special election because it saved the city the $20,000 it would have cost to hold an election.

Supporters of a Super Wal-Mart and those who think the store is big enough said they support an election to decide the matter.

The audience that filled City Hall to capacity was largely made up of grocery worker union representatives from San Diego, Orange County and the Imperial Valley, Wal-Mart employees and supporters of Calexico's downtown stores.

They cheered and clapped following the council's decision.

"I congratulate the City Council. Tonight, democracy has been displayed in its perfection," said Joe Moreno, manager of Apple Market-Super Shopping in downtown Calexico.

Moreno and Aubry exemplified the cheery spirit and tone of what had been labeled "Black Tuesday II" by laughing and talking together after a recess was called.

After the recess, supporters of both sides started to file out, shaking hands and smiling.

The march of union reps and Calexico residents that preceded the City Council meeting was one-third the size of the previous march.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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