Kauai County Council bans "Big Box" stores

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Hawaii, The Kauai County Council has approved the state's first ban on large retail stores, denying Wal-Mart the opportunity to expand its existing store on the island.

The council passed the measure in a unanimous vote Thursday out of concern for local businesses who claim they can't compete against big-box national retailers on the scenic island of 63,000 people.
 
"Big boxes, regardless of what company, when they come into town, they do cause mom-and-pop stores to close," said Councilman Mel Rapozo.

The new county law will prohibit retail and wholesale establishments larger than 75,000. Kauai will keep its existing Costco, Wal-Mart and Kmart stores, but no new retail stores that big could be built under this regulation.

The measure, which was proposed by Mayor Bryan Baptiste, directly affects Wal-Mart's proposal to expand its 119,000 square foot Lihue store into a Supercenter with nearly 200,000 square feet and a full grocery section.

Customers and residents will pay higher prices as a result of the law, said Eric Berger, western regional public affairs director for Wal-Mart.

"In the mainland, we have encountered various ordinances such as this, and ultimately, this serves to limit consumer choices, which we think is unfair to our customers," he said. Wal-Mart is not prepared to take legal action, he said.

The council passed the ban 5-0 with two council members absent, but all seven previously expressed their support for the bill.

Most of the 11 speakers before the council opposed the idea of banning large stores.

"Our county council has decided that we don't need the lower prices," said Kekaha resident Alfred Sarmento.

Councilman Rapozo said residents can save money and gas by shopping at neighborhood stores.

"We really don't need a great big store the size being proposed by the operator," said Norman Hashisaka, who spoke in favor of the bill.

Several council members said they did not intend the bill to be anti-Wal-Mart. Instead, they wanted it because it will prevent all large stores from opening on the small island.

"At 75,000 feet, there's still a lot of opportunity here," said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

Source : Longview Daily News

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