CEDAR HILLS — Folks in Cedar Hills say Wal-Mart will be surprised if the retail giant is allowed to open a store in this upscale north Utah County community.
The surprise? The store will be nearly empty on Sundays.
Cedar Hills City Councilman Doug LeDoux says Wal-Mart's management underestimates the people who live in the city. The majority are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they are encouraged by church leaders not to shop on Sundays.
LeDoux recently asked a representative of a development-consulting firm hired by Wal-Mart whether the company's research turned up that kind of information.
"This is a pretty unique demographic," LeDoux said.
Councilman Robert Eddington said he will be surprised if the proposed 158,000-square-foot store gets approved by city officials.
"I voted against putting it on for public hearing," Eddington said Wednesday. "I thought we ought to put the issue down."
Eddington said he feels Wal-Mart has been extended every opportunity to present its case, but Cedar Hills residents simply don't want a store so big in the community, particularly if it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"The 24 is as important as the seven," Eddington said. "You'd be bringing a lot of outside traffic during the late night and early morning hours that you wouldn't have otherwise."
Eddington, who also thinks most Cedar Hills residents won't shop on Sundays, worries about Wal-Mart's commitment. Would Wal-Mart build — and then abandon — a large store that would sit empty for years after the retailer left town?
In addition, Eddington says Wal-Mart may buy the property and never build on it, preventing another retailer from building in the area where businesses can operate.
Shel McPherson, who works for the Wal-Mart-retained consulting firm, said the company is committed to being a good neighbor and has never abandoned a supercenter.
He said Wal-Mart has never designed a store like the one proposed for Cedar Hills, with a Main Street facade on all four sides and a hidden tire shop.
He pointed out that the store has been moved on the lot to allow for professional office buildings to buffer the store and the neighborhood to the east.
Wal-Mart has given up access onto Cedar Hills' Redwood Road. Company officials also gave up plans for a gas station and restaurant.
"There's nothing to date in the state of Utah that leads us to believe there will be no business on Sunday," McPherson said.
"The company has worked hard to comply," Eddington said, "but most people want a more laid-back kind of store."
Don Griffes is one of a few residents who have spoken out publicly in favor of the Wal-Mart. Not everybody is against the project, he says.
Griffes is disappointed that the store seems headed for a denial — and is amused at the furor over Sunday business hours.
"If people don't want to shop on Sunday, then don't," he said.