April 9, 2005
Wal-Mart has joined the Riverview at Dobson developer and an Ernst and Young representative in drafting a letter that emphatically denies the company will receive incentives at the Mesa site.
In an answer to the "No on Riverview" campaign materials linking Wal-Mart to possible free rent or other perks, the retail giant on Friday started distributing a letter from its seven Mesa locations.
Wal-Mart spokesman Pete Kanelos said the letter will be placed in shopping bags throughout the weekend at Mesa’s two supercenters, one regular store and four neighborhood markets.
"We don’t have a position (in the May 17 election), but we felt it was important enough to state the facts to make sure our customers know the facts," Kanelos said.
Kanelos said it was a company decision to distribute the letter and it was not affiliated with the official "Yes on Riverview" campaign.
The 250-acre Riverview project that’s expected to include a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, 16-screen Cinemark movie theater, Wal-Mart Supercenter, other "big-box" retailers, auto dealerships and a business park will go to a vote May 17. On Monday, the Tribune will sponsor a debate in Mesa City Council Chambers, three days before the start of early voting.
Also on Friday, Kimco Developers president Jerry Friedman sent a letter to City Manager Mike Hutchinson claiming Wal-Mart will be paying a "commercially reasonable and fair market rent for its land if a lease is entered into." He offered the city the future chance to review the lease agreement, which has not yet been signed.
Earlier this week, the city posted a letter on its Web site from Ernst and Young’s Steve Klett, whose Riverview market analysis became the basis for a Tribune article and subsequently the "No on Riverview" campaign materials because it stated that Wal-Mart’s Riverview rent would be $0.00. Klett said the $0.00 figure was not meant to imply the company would not pay rent, but was used to calculate revenue projections from Mesa’s rental tax, which he believed Wal-Mart would not need to pay.
Wal-Mart, Friedman and Klett all cite the incentive package agreement that prohibits "economic incentive payments" to Wal-Mart, the wording of which the "No on Riverview" campaign says leaves open the opportunity for free or reduced rent or other advantages.
The city’s posting of Klett’s letter has come under fire by the Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens), the residents’ group that is leading the opposition. The group’s attorney, Tom Irvine, sent a letter to City Attorney Debbie Spinner late Friday demanding that the city remove Klett’s letter from its Web site. Irvine claims the city is using its resources to influence the election, a violation of state election law.
Irvine’s letter gives Mesa until noon Monday to remove the "campaign propaganda," or "appropriate actions" will be taken. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the Ernst and Young letter was still on the Web site.
Scott Rose, chairman of the Cavanagh Law Firm that is representing the Riverview developers in a defamation case against Valley Business Owners members Jan Hibbard and David Molina, spoke in favor of the project for the first time Friday. Scott Rose is the father of Jason Rose, the "No on Riverview" campaign spokesman.
"He’s working for his interest and I’m working for my client," Scott Rose said.
Jason Rose had no comment on his father’s decision.