Dozens protest proposed Wal-Mart in Watertown

WATERTOWN — A spirited crowd of about 50 protesters gathered at a vacant industrial property in this city just west of Boston to demonstrate their opposition to the possible construction of a Wal-Mart store there.

The international discount superstore chain signed a 20-year lease last August for the 7.8 acre property located at Irving and Arsenal streets, with the option to renew for as much as another 30 years, according to lease terms.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Steven Restivo said last November that the corporation would submit a proposal in 2012, but the company has yet to present a plan to build a store. At the time, Restivo also said Wal-Mart would speak to residents, but it has not yet done so.

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The Saturday rally took place under a billboard with “No Big Box’’ in large blue letters erected by opponents to a new store last week.

Some residents who oppose a new store have expressed concerns about increased traffic, noise and sound pollution, property devaluation, and threats to small business owners.

Mike Mandel , who unsuccessfully ran for a Watertown Town Council seat last November on an anti-Wal-Mart platform, designed the billboard with his wife.

“Imagine a better development here,’’ Mandel told gathered protesters. “We hope that Wal-Mart gets the message, breaks the lease, and gets out of town.’’

Another resident, Cindy Munch, 48, said she thinks the chain would drive out small businesses run by the city’s thriving Armenian-American community and other small grocery stores.

“I like the uniqueness of Watertown – I like the Armenian markets and the Russo’s type stores,’’ Munch said.

Another resident, Pamela Gorgone, 56, said she was concerned about air, noise, and light pollution from the company’s unavoidable trucks, snow plows, and air conditioning units.

Thirty-year resident Karin Rosenthal, 66, said she also worried about traffic in an already congested area.

“With the recent MBTA cuts, the bus schedules are already stressed,’’ Rosenthal said. “This will jam them even further.’’

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Some drivers passing by the protesters, who were waving bright red signs at traffic, honked and flashed thumbs-up in support.

Restivo said in an email Friday that the corporation creates jobs, generates tax revenue, contributes to non-profits, and helps customers save money.

“[A]s we evaluate opportunities to serve more local customers, we’ll continue to try and offer solutions for our customers in Watertown and other communities across the Commonwealth,’’ Restivo wrote.

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