Chandler does not have the power to stop a Wal-Mart Marketplace from locating directly across from two competing grocery stores, city officials said, despite an outpouring of complaints from area residents.
Chandler planning and development director Doug Ballard and other officials organized a news conference Thursday to explain what they called a public misperception about Chandler’s role in the planned Wal-Mart Marketplace grocery store at the northeast corner of Alma School and Queen Creek roads.
"People think the city has the discretionary power to decide what goes in there," Ballard said. "We don’t."
Chandler spokesman Dave Bigos said the city has received several complaints from residents who oppose putting a Wal-Mart at the busy intersection, where Bashas’ and Albertson’s stores have operated since 1997.
"We are hearing from a lot of residents, either by phone or e-mail, that are concerned about the Wal-Mart name," Bigos said.
However, Ballard and City Attorney Dennis O’Neill said Chandler could face another lawsuit if it tried to keep Wal-Mart out of the area. The city already fought and won a case filed by Wal-Mart after Chandler officials kept a much larger Wal-Mart Supercenter from the same location.
Since Wal-Mart Marketplace is smaller and does not violate the city’s "big-box" ordinance, O’Neill said there is no legal basis for turning the company away this time.
"One constitutional requirement is equal protection," he said. "Everybody is to be treated the same."
Bashas’ spokeswoman Alison Bendler said only five intersections in the Valley have grocery stores on three of four corners.
"Is it going to be tough on one retailer? Yes," Bendler said. "Is it going to be us? We don’t know."
Ballard said Chandler is not responsible for protecting businesses from competition.
"We can’t utilize the city’s policing powers to benefit one business over another," he said.