U.S. Water News Online
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Decorah City Council illegally
allowed Wal-Mart to build a Supercenter on a flood plain, the Iowa
Court of Appeals has decided.
The appeals court reversed a district court ruling that supported
the city's actions that allowed the store's construction. The higher
court sent the case back to the district court to be worked out,
saying the city overstepped its authority.
Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said the retailer is deciding
whether to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review the case. Wal-Mart
says it has 30 days to appeal.
The company plans to open the Decorah store in October and close
an existing smaller store there, he said.
Opponents of the 184,000-square-foot store, scheduled to open on
Oct. 16, hope the decision means the giant retailer will be forced to
tear down the store.
``Sometimes big corporations make big mistakes,'' said Karl
Knudson, an attorney representing a group of Decorah residents trying
to block the store which was partially built in the Upper Iowa River
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer filled the area with dirt to
prevent flooding, but critics complain that the runoff will flood the
northeast Iowa community and surrounding farmland.
Wal-Mart could be forced to raze all or part of the
multimillion-dollar store, Wertz acknowledged.
``It's possible. There are a lot of possibilities,'' he said.
Decorah City Attorney Richard Zahasky said that about 80 percent
of the Wal-Mart building and parking lot sit on land that is not in
the flood plain.
Other remedies could include seeking a special-use permit or
paying a fine to allow the store to remain open, he said.
Frank Holland, a Wal-Mart opponent who owns about 240 acres of
farmland across from the Wal-Mart, is pleased with the ruling
``because we're right.''
The retired engineer doubts the company will be forced to remove
the building. ``You know that's not going to happen,'' he said.
Knudson said his clients feel the appropriate resolution to the
dispute would be to take the building down.
``That is the normal remedy, the usual remedy whether it's a
garage or a big building,'' he said. ``The same principle applies.''
Knudson said Wal-Mart officials pushed ahead on the project
despite legal challenges.
``They made the decision to proceed at their own risk,'' Knudson
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