DERBY – Gov. Peter Shumlin will make an announcement regarding area development Tuesday, Jan. 15, and speculation is running rampant that the subject will be Walmart. Shumlin will be in town next week and will speak at The Tavern on US 5 in Derby, across the road from the entrance to a proposed Walmart Super Center. The governor's office is being evasive as to the content of the announcement.
“There is no question’s it’s Walmart,” said out-going Sen. Vince Illuzzi of Derby.
Sen. Bobby Starr of North Troy confirmed that Shumlin’s office invited him to the development announcement but said he did not know if it regarded a Walmart store. “I kind of got that feeling, but they didn’t tell me that,” Starr said.
Brian Smith, chair of the Derby Select Board, said he has not heard from Burlington developer Jeff Davis, who is reportedly paying $20 million for the project. Davis has been mum on the status of a Walmart store in Derby, only saying that if any Walmart came to the area, it would be a super store.
Yesterday, Smith said Shumlin’s office told him there would be an announcement next week.
Many local residents have been pushing for a Walmart since the Ames Department Store closed more than a decade ago. Currently, area residents travel to Littleton or Woodsville, NH, or to Williston, VT, to shop at Walmart. There are also Walmart stores in Magog and Sherbrooke, Quebec, but prices and taxes tend to be higher and operating hours tend to be different than with the stores on the U.S. side of the border.
A local Walmart will help keep some of the money closer to home, Illuzzi said.
“The time has come for a Walmart store in Orleans County,” said Illuzzi. He said Davis did everything asked of him by various local and state boards to win approval for the site, including studying the feasibility of building the store in downtown Newport City. “That was a specific request that I made when we met with him and the governor. I really did push to the extent possible to have the store in downtown Newport.”
Davis spent $25,000 to study different locations and scenarios, Illuzzi said. The study showed that no available site would support a Walmart store in the city.
There is some controversy around whether or not Walmart would be good for the area. Some say it would help local businesses by bringing more people into the area; others say it would compete with small business owners by offering more goods at lower prices. Unlike the store in Littleton, purchases at a local Walmart would be subject to Vermont sales taxes.
New Hampshire has no sales tax. Derby might also benefit from impact fees or a local options tax.
Walmart is considered an anchor store and could draw in other retailers, creating jobs for the area, but also adding to the already heavy traffic on US 5 in Derby. There are a number of commercial properties for sale along the Derby Road corridor.