The Payoff That’s Not a Payoff: For $200,000 Opponents Promise Not to Fight Walmart in Derby

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DERBY–Preservation Trust and the Vermont Natural Resources Council have agreed not to oppose a Walmart Superstore in Derby. The two Vermont conservation groups made a complex deal with developer Jeff Davis, the Shumlin administration, and the Legislature, requiring Davis to pay $200,000 for future improvements to downtowns throughout Orleans County.

The deal, signed September 25th, and unveiled in Burlington Wednesday afternoon, was welcomed by Newport City Mayor Paul Monette and Derby Select Board Chairman Brian Smith, who have been trying to bring Walmart into the area for years. Davis could possibly apply for local permits for the Walmart Superstore within 30 days.

For not opposing the future Derby store, Preservation Trust will receive payment once the store is built, with the $200,000 used entirely for grants to help downtowns in Orleans County. In addition, the state will add $500,000 to its downtown improvements tax credit program.

Davis also agreed to pay $600,000 over six years to Newport City. The city will use the money to ease the economic impact the store will bring.

“To me, the most important thing was to get Newport and Derby a Walmart,” Davis said.

One final addition to the deal is that Davis agreed that for the next five years, he will not seek to build any other Walmart stores outside other Vermont downtowns.

Both conservation group executive directors brought up the fact that there was a lack of organized opposition to the Derby store, and that the deal reached was a fair compromise, given the fact that a long battle could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the past, both Derby and Newport City voters have supported the idea of an agreement with Davis being made in order to move the project along. In 2010, 85 percent of voters favored a Walmart in Derby being built.

When asked if the deal amounted to a payoff to stop fighting the Derby Walmart, Paul Bruhn, executive director of Preservation Trust, stated, “We don’t think of it in that way.”

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