We just walked in to Channel 7’s report that federal Judge George Howard had ruled against an environmental group’s lawsuit calling for a full environmental impact study before North Little Rock drains the Dark Hollow wetland to build a Bass Pro Shops shopping center. The project will require multi-million subsidies from the local school district and, undoubtedly, other taxpayers who’ll have to pay for a fabulously expensive amount of freeway work along one of the most difficult stretches of freeway in the state.
Mayor Pat Hays is thrilled of course.
Most mystifying: the judge’s apparent comment that none of the plaintiffs had shown an interest in Dark Hollow before the lawsuit. That sounds nuts to us. If we don’t express interest in clean air next door prior to announcement of plans for a giant refinery, we’ve lost our chance to protest?
In any case, many environmentalists have expressed many thoughts about Dark Hollow over a long span of years, including in our cover story last July by Mara Leveritt (and also this sidebar) about the Corps of Engineers’ thoroughly shoddy and wholly political decision to speed along this drainage project.
We hope the alliance that contested this giveaway — which will create “new” revenue mostly to the extent it will ravage existing retailers — will appeal.
When we can, we’ll dig up the searching Minneapolis newspaper article in February that debunked, through academic study, the notion that you add overal value from subsidizing retail development. And the articles about underwhelming sales in an Oklahoma Bass Pro. and the Bass Pros that encircle us in neighboring states. And the fine retailers, local and national, that have built businesses without requiring corporate welfare.
One more thought: This deal doesn’t go unless North Little Rock school kids pay for it by giving up money voted for school millage, not sporting goods stores. We think another lawsuit could be filed promptly if NLR tries to build this on the backs of school kids. The Arkansas Constitution doesn’t allow it, no matter how badly Bruce Burrow wants it.