Sunday, September 13, 2009

WHO DID WHAT, WHEN AND HOW?- The Wal-Mart Project

With so many unanswered questions regarding the Boyer Development or as it now being called, the “Valley Station” project, will we ever know all the answers.

Heber City Government has told the citizens, that even with delays, there is still progress. The local paper, is saying there is progress. It is obvious that someone needs to define “progress”.

Citizens look at the vacant field, and wonder what and where is the progress? They now wonder, what was the hurry to force people out of their homes? And why the hurry to make changes to roads and the worst change of all, the intersection at Highway 40 and 189?

Some questions that need to be asked are; Does Heber City Government, believe and have confidence now, in the information that Boyer is providing? Likewise, is there confidence in what the Heber City Administration is now saying to citizens?
It seems obvious, that Boyer is not really presenting all the facts on what the true plans are for now and in the future and the current City administration is allowing them to get away with this misspeak. And of course, Heber City seems to be painting the picture of what they would like to see along with what they were promised even though they can not prove either.
It seems everyone involved is now trying to cover this disaster with information that is palatable for public consumption regardless of the out come.

Supportable facts, without filtering, should be presented to the public. Not surprising, the public is usually smarter than some will acknowledge. So, would it not be better to give all the facts and allow citizens to draw their own conclusions?

It is very interesting, that on a Wal-Mart Company web site, a map of Heber City is shown and an address is given for a Heber Store. Of course this has not changed for the last three years. And the address they give is 435 Airport Road. There is no mention as to the type of store that is offered. Mention of the Heber City Store has been removed from other Wal-Mart active web sites.
In this area, information is easily found on the Park City Wal-Mart and what they are doing and when it is expected to be finished, even though the whole project, due to some political wrangling by Summit County, is on hold.

A few weeks ago, the Mayor of Heber City, Dave Phillips, tried to make the case, the same one, made months earlier by the City Manager, that Wal-Mart was going to a different type of store, therefore, they (Wal-Mart) in conjunction with Boyer, were rethinking what they planned to do. And then the hint was made, that with the rethink, the citizens would see a very different, greener store and of course it would not be as large as promised.
Was this information given by Boyer or by Wal-Mart, to Heber City Officials?
Perhaps, there are changes coming, because Wal-Mart is a very careful company. They did not get to be the worlds largest retailer, by making mistakes or deals that do not offer a return. And they have no problem pulling out of any deal, that does not provide them with the right market share. And unlike some, they are never stampeded in making decisions.
Some where, between Wal-Mart, Boyer and Heber City, the conduit for factual information is plugged, either on purpose, or due to no one really wanting to know. Sometimes, the truth is very painful.

In conversation and investigation of Wal-Mart, the plans they present, are for only four types of store.

1. Wal-Mart Discount Stores: In this store, they carry most things, but not food. Their lawn and garden shops are usually small. They employ about 225 people. This type of store is about 107,000 square feet.
This is not the type of store, the people of Heber were promised either in word or deed.

2. Wal-Mart Super Centers: This was the store that was promised. This is the store, that was shown in the pretty pictures, prior to the voters going to the polls.
The Super Center Store carries a complete food department along with a very large garden center. Involved with this store is eye, hair, banking, tax service departments and so forth.
It is this type of store, the Park City Store is supposed to be when completed and what was promised to the people of Heber a few years ago.
Super Centers average 187,000 square feet and employ about 350 people and more during Holiday Seasons.

3. Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets: This plan is called a convenient store. Small, averaging about 42,000 square feet. Think of these stores as like a Day’s Market or a Smiths, cut in half, both in products and building size. They carry a number of items, but not anything near what is carried and inventoried by Discount Stores and Super Centers. Neighborhood Markets employ about 95 people and at the present time, there is only about 153 of these stores in the Country. They are what the name suggests, small neighborhood markets, short on product lines and in-depth inventories. And in most cases, their price points are somewhat higher.

4. Marketside: These stores are the smallest of the Wal-Mart product. They carry prepared foods, similar to a Boston Market. They also carry organic food products with a large deli type operation. These store are about 15 to 25000 square feet. They require and work well with large population centers. They employ less than 30 people. The first one opened in 2008. Information on how they do, their weaknesses and strengths is not totally complete.

So what type of Wal-Mart store will the citizens of Heber City see?
Will Wal-Mart even be coming to the area?
As for citizens of Heber City, these questions and even a few more should be answered in full. Perhaps, seeing what Boyer is showing the world on their web site, is more telling that anything said so far.

Valley Station is the name of the Boyer project in Heber City. In company information, this development is listed, but the listing has not changed for some time. According to Boyer, Valley Station is listed as a mixed-use development. In developer and planning speak, mixed-use means; “a project which we are trying to jam as much building on a particular piece of land as possible”.
The size of the Valley Station project is listed as 120.000 square feet. In this size, they claim they will have a Wal-Mart, retail shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and multi-family homes. To the average person, this development sounds like it is going to be really tight. And at 120,000, if Wal-Mart comes at all, it will be something they are not building currently, so what type of Wal-Mart will this be?

Further investigation into the Boyer and Wal-Mart issue, show that in the very beginning, due diligence was never done on the issues, such as the costs and the revenues if any. The whole project seems to have been one, in which, if questions were asked, either there were not answers or the answers that were given, did not support what Boyer and Heber City were conspiring to do.
Heber City moved fast and furious. They promoted and did things, that in a normal process, would have never been allowed. Information and the required process was dismissed, and shaky information, unsupported facts and conclusions were rammed through, hoping no one would ask, operating on the premise, that citizens can be told anything. Boyer on the other hand, promoted and spent money to paint a rosy picture of large tax returns, revenues beyond comprehension, huge employment opportunities. In fact Boyer even used or paid for the use of, names of officials of Heber City in order to move the whole process, with speed and not much deliberation. It is obvious that regardless of the out comes, citizens will be required to pick up the pieces and pay for this lack of due diligence on the part of Heber City and requiring Boyer to do the same, for years to come.

Based on information we now know, it is quite possible the Boyer project may not be anything more than a strip mall with some shops and lots of cheap unneeded housing. And once more, citizens will have to pay for these acts of omission and commission as if they were of their own making.
This project, and what was promised in the very beginning, is like a hoar frost. When real intense light is focused on it, it disappears.
We may never know the extent of collusion on the part of some. We may never know, what quid-pro-quo took place in the negotiations. We many never know what the citizens could have had, if those in charge had followed the law, rather than manipulating it.

Is the Boyer Company guilty of misleading the public in the beginning of this project. And later on, misleading Heber City Administration?

Is the Heber City Administration guilty of dereliction of some duty for failing to check all the facts and observing commonly accepted protocols?

Are citizens guilty, due to apathy for failing to ask the important questions and then demanding complete disclosure of all the projected costs and revenues?

Regardless what is built on the Boyer site, when the project is completed, there will always be whispered conversations of who did What, When and How. Can you blame them?

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