Measure O would block mega-retail stores

REDLANDS, Calif. Through the years, the city of Redlands has fought hard to maintain its small-town feel. The question is how do you balance that with the need to bring in big-business during a recession?

Now the battle lines are being drawn over the possibility of a /*Wal-Mart*/ Supercenter coming to town.

"People who live on the north side of town are worried about the increase in traffic, the 24-hour store, the lights, potential crime around the area," said Keith Osajima, a supporter of /*Measure O*/.

If approved, stores bigger than 100,000-square-feet with more than three-percent of sales dedicated to non-taxable items like groceries would be prohibited in Redlands.

Osajima says smaller boutique stores would be protected by keeping supercenter-type stores away.

"Their prime motive for moving into supercenters and developing supercenters is really to put other people out of business," said Osajima

But Wal-Mart's Steve Restivo disagrees, saying "all across California, our stores co-exist with small, medium and large businesses."

Redlands Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Sceranka agrees with Restivo's statement, adding that the supercenter-type stores bring much needed sales tax dollars during a down economy

"The types of products that they sell do not compete with the boutiques stores in downtown Redlands," he said. "Cities are fighting for their survival right now, so for us to take any particular type of business and to say we don't want you to come into Redlands would be very detrimental to our financial situation."

A Wal-Mart Supercenter could be ready for business within three years on a vacant stretch of land on the southeast corner of San Bernardino Avenue and Tennessee Street. But if city voters approve Measure O, the project would be stopped dead in its tracks.

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