Feedback on Wal-Mart negative so far

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By MIKE MORRIS

It would be difficult to find someone who opposes the notion of a Wal-Mart in Calaveras County more than Ron Klass.

After all, he's got a lot to lose.

Klass' family has invested much into Murphys' Main Street: He owns a jewelry store; his wife owns owns a furniture and clothes store; his daughter-in-law co-owns a shoe shop; and his son owns two restaurants.

A Sacramento-based developer has made a pitch to Wal-Mart officials about building a Wal-Mart Super Center near the intersection of Highways 4 and 49 in Angels Camp.

This would affect more than Angels Camp businesses, Klass said.

"It would literally ruin Main Street in Angels Camp and Murphys," he said.

Klass was one of about 40 people at yesterday's Angels-Murphys Rotary Club meeting, held weekly in the Murphys Hotel.

Angels Camp City Administrator Tim Shearer was there to solicit feedback from club members, many of whom are local business owners, about a possible big-box store coming to Angels Camp.

Shearer who has heard a variety of views from community members about Wal-Mart said there's a possibility that Wal-Mart and the developer could make a proposal in about six months.

"The question we need to ask ourselves is, 'What do we want?' Do we want a big-box store? Do we not want a big box store?" Shearer said.

People at the service club meeting made it clear they do not support a Wal-Mart, or any other big-box store, for that matter. No one spoke in favor of Wal-Mart during the meeting.

"We're kind of destroying the historical elements in Angels Camp," Rotary Club President Michael Schwartz said after the meeting, referring to the new Frog Jump Plaza.

Built in 2001, the plaza sits next to a vacant 9-acre lot which plaza developer Fred Katz owns. Katz has expressed interest in building a big-box store and grocery store on the property. A Wal-Mart Super Center would take care of both.

Paul Backowski, a Greenhorn Creek resident, said Katz is looking to capitalize on the high volume of traffic where the highways intersect at the plaza.

"There's not a need by the people who live here," said Backowski, who added that he doesn't mind shopping at Sonora's Wal-Mart every couple of weeks.

Steve Difu, at yesterday's meeting as a guest, said as an Angels Camp planning commissioner, he would evaluate the pros and cons of a big-box store.

"I don't think it compliments the aesthetics and history of our town," he said of Wal-Mart.

Klass had suggested to Shearer during the meeting that a committee be formed to attract small franchise businesses to the Angels Camp and Murphys areas in place of larger corporations.

"We don't need to develop what is already in Angels Camp and Murphys," Klass said.

Contact Mike Morris at mmorris@uniondemocrat.com .

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The Union Democrat
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