More than 100 in Holyoke turn out against Walmart plans - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

More than 100 in Holyoke turn out against Walmart plans

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More than 100 Holyoke residents gathered Thursday night in opposition to a proposed Walmart in the Paper City.

The vacant plot of land at 222 Whiting Farms Rd. could one day be the newest of Walmart's 47 Massachusetts stores, but not if some residents have anything to do with it.

"My greatest concern, my quality of life. I live in Holyoke, I love my neighborhood, I love my house, it will greatly affect me on all levels," said Terri Laramee.

Laramee is the spokesperson for the group Holyoke First. They're fighting against the 160,000-square-foot superstore.

"Traffic is the biggest issue. We already have a lot of mall traffic during the holidays and I can only see it getting worse," she said.

The proposed site is zoned for commercial use and sits in an area surrounded by stores, gas stations and is just yards away from the Holyoke Mall.

Mayor Alex Morse was at Thursday night's meeting. He says that more could be done with the vacant lot.

"While Walmart just promised tax revenue and jobs for the community, it's at the expense of lost jobs and lost tax revenue when other small businesses and retailers close in the city of Holyoke," Morse said.

But Walmart says it's about jobs and low prices.

Walmart spokesman William Wertz sent this statement to CBS 3 saying in part:

"We believe our new Supercenter in Holyoke will have broad community support. It means 300 new jobs and new affordable shopping options to the community. Even Mayor Morse was quoted just last month saying that whether Walmart or someone else builds on the site, It's important to remember that it's a vacant piece of land that's zoned commercial. It's an opportunity for Holyoke to get jobs and tax revenue.

"The city of Holyoke considered traffic and residential impact three years ago when it re-zoned the property commercial. However, we intend to work with the community to resolve any issues or questions about our project that may arise."
While these protestors can't legally stop Walmart from coming, Morse says he's hoping this showing persuades the company to look elsewhere.

"Folks here in the city are hoping they choose to forego Holyoke for other locations," he said.

Walmart is holding an open house at Holyoke Community College on Aug. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to reach out to residents with questions.

They have until Sept. 19 to either put down a deposit or walk away.

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