In Heber City, Voters Pave Way for Wal-Mart

In Heber City, Voters Pave Way for Wal-Mart

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HEBER CITY, Utah (AP) -- Residents in Heber City said yes to a major commercial development anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The vote was 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of allowing a big-box development in fast-growing Heber City, a picturesque mountain community 33 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, said Wasatch County Clerk Brett Titcomb.

The Boyer Co. plans to break ground next spring.

A local group, Put Heber Valley First, got the issue on the ballot. Opponents had hoped to overturn an April vote by the City Council that cleared the way for the project.

Heber City, population 10,200, has long avoided chains or strip malls. Its largest retailer is a Smith's grocery store at 60,000 square feet -- the size of a football field. The new Wal-Mart could be as large as 150,000 square feet. Boyer also plans smaller shops and townhouses on the 70-acre parcel at Heber City's busiest intersection.

"I look at the election results in a mixed way -- we lost, but this is not an open season for development," said Matt Heimburger, 38, an organizer for Put Heber Valley First. "A lot of people still don't want it."

The council that approved Wal-Mart also is changing, he said.

Three of the five members who supported Wal-Mart were replaced in the election by two newcomers opposed to large chain store development. A third was neutral. Heimburger, however, doesn't expect the council to revisit its decision.

Heimburger said Boyer spent heavily on its referendum campaign for "constant telephone 'push-polls,' mailers every other day, full page color ads in the local newspaper and radio advertising.

"The Boyer Co. even tried to buy the entire city lunch on Saturday -- a catered tent affair," he said. His group hastily erected a sign across the street reading, "There's No Free Lunch."

Wade Williams, Boyer's director of retail development, said, "We served hot dogs and drinks -- I'm not sure that's buying the whole town. We had an open house for our site plan. I should add that many people in Matt's organization did come over and get a free lunch."

The closest Wal-Mart to Heber is a smaller store at Kimball Junction, about a half-hour drive away. "You can't buy sheets or towels in Heber City," Williams said.

"I was there last night and needed a jacket -- I couldn't buy a jacket. We estimate $80 million to $100 million in retail sales leaves the community."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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