Heights residents voice concerns over Wal-Mart plan

HOUSTON The controversy is growing faster than the grass on the still-empty field at Yale and Kohler, just off I-10. The idea that a new Wal-Mart may soon call the inside the Loop property home has just about every nearby homeowner angry.

"No one's happy about it," said Heights resident Yogi Bhutani. "Our house values are going to come down. Traffic is going to be bad and it's not going to be safe, either."

Bhutani isn't alone. He's among the 4,000 and growing members of a Facebook group against the proposed Wal-Mart. Since residents first became aware of the possibility two weeks ago, there have been community meetings and petitions and on Tuesday, a group showed up at city hall to express their displeasure.

"We live here for a reason," said homeowner Josh Verde. "If we wanted the suburbs, we can go in any direction 15 or 20 miles and live there for a lot less with a larger house."

But the council member who represents their area, Ed Gonzalez, was not there to hear their complaints, though the city insists that nothing is finalized yet.

"Number one, there are no final deals, so there's going to be more conversation going on and I'm sure there will be other conversations until the community is finally engaged," said Andy Icken with the City of Houston

And Wal-Mart does have its supporters.

"I'm happy about it to be honest," said Wal-Mart supporter Pamela Smith. "It's very convenient. I love Wal-Mart. I do all my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart."

Mayor Annise Parker says the deal is in its early stages. But she does say that in a city without zoning, there's nothing the city can do to stop a company from building on land it's purchased.

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