Big Country

Merkel Walmart issue moves to City Council, P & Z offers no recommendation

Grass fire continues near Buffalo Gap

MERKEL, Texas - The Planning and Zoning Commission in Merkel could not agree on whether to rezone land for commercial use by Walmart.

P&Z voted 2-2 on the issue Friday night.

Walmart wants to buy property owned by Taylor Telephone Cooperative and have it rezoned so they can build a Walmart Express store there.

That land is on the Northeast corner of the I-20 frontage road and FM 126.

The request will now go to the Merkel City Council and unless something changes the council will hold a hearing at their next meeting on May 12. They have to hold a second hearing after that before they vote on the matter.

At least one small business owner in Merkel is hoping they vote no.

"Merkel is a small town. We really only have eight or ten small businesses here and those businesses are trying to survive," said Danny Woodall, the owner of Merkel Drug Company.

The small town of about 2,600 people is in the middle of one big debate.

Walmart wants to build an express store there. That is similar to a convenience store.

"They are the largest company in the United States. They have put more vendors out of business than any other company," said Woodall.

Woodall said he has been fighting the Walmart idea since a representative first visited his store in 2004. He said they weren't shy about what their plan was then.

Woodall said they told him, "We will put you out of business and then you will have to go to Walmart."

In a statement, Walmart Director of Communications Anne Hatfield SAID, "Many factors go into the decision to choose a location for a new Walmart store, but the main consideration is meeting the needs of our customers.  We look for spots where we can offer customers greater selection of merchandise, convenience and affordability than they had before. "

Woodall said that's not the case in Merkel.

"We already have groceries. We already have a pharmacy. We already have gasoline. They're not bringing anything to the table," said Woodall.  "We will continue to fight them as long as we can."

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