Wal-Mart Finally Open in Guelph
Wednesday, November 8, 20062 Comments
The parking lot of Guelph's new Wal-Mart, packed shortly after its grand opening
By noon, the store was absolutely packed, with all the legal parking spaces occupied – and many illegal ones improvised on the go. If parking spaces had not been enough of an indication, the store itself was boiling over with avid customers getting a head start on their Christmas shopping.
The road that led to Wal-Mart’s opening has been a rocky one. Its applications were constantly denied by former City Councils, strongly supported by community groups – until the current Council voted in favour of granting Wal-Mart the permits to start building a few months after taking office.
Community groups, most notably Residents for Sustainable Development (RSD) in Guelph and the nearby Ignatius Jesuit Centre continued to oppose the big box store and managed to paralyze its building through legal action at different times in the past two and a half years. However, Wal-Mart and the Jesuit Centre reached a settlement earlier this summer, and RSD decided to withdraw its appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board a month later.
In this climate, there were concerns that Wal-Mart’s formal opening would attract a wave of protesters, especially so close to next week’s municipal elections. Guelph Police constables were in fact visible at the front of the store throughout the morning. When questioned about their presence there, one constable in the reflective vest usually worn to direct traffic told Thecannon.ca that “[Wal-Mart] said that they thought they might have traffic problems,” and that "we haven’t had any problems [other than traffic] all morning.”
With suburban sprawl and traffic in the Woodlawn/Woolwich intersection already high in the list of contentious issues as the city moves into next week’s election, it remains to be seen whether Wal-Mart’s grand opening will emphasize these issues in the minds of the voters.