Helotes serves as example for Cibolo residents in Walmart dispute

Retailer opened Helotes supe­rcenter in April

HELOTES, Texas - For better or worse, residents in Helotes have adjusted to life with Walmart in their community.

A 150-square-foot supercenter opened in April after nearly a decade of opposition.

So far, the reviews have been mixed.

"The traffic is 100 times worse," said real estate agent Amy Karns.

"I shop there myself. It's a good, clean store," said Helotes Mayor Tom Schoolcraft. "All the other things people had fears about really aren't happening."

Those fears centered around the impact the new store would have on local businesses, property values, crime and public safety.

Those fears are also similar to the concerns residents in Cibolo have with the plans to build a new Walmart store in their community, across the street from an elementary school.

Walmart eyed Helotes as a potential store location in the mid-2000s, but the opposition to it's proposed location on the city's Scenic Loop was so fierce that the company withdrew its plans.

Walmart returned a few years later and in 2012 construction began on the new store on Bandera Road.

Schoolcraft has always supported Walmart coming to Helotes and he said the community has embraced it's convenience and contributions to the city's tax base.

"We were losing a lot of sales tax dollars and a lot of that is able to stay here now, not all of it, but a big portion of it," he said. "It's great to be able to go grocery shopping and get anything else we really need right here in town."

That convenience is not enough to make Amy Karns shop at Walmart.

She said the store has not had an impact on home sales or prices in the short time it has been open.

"My neighbors thought it was going to bring property values down. I haven't seen it so much," Karns said.

But like her counterparts in Cibolo, Karns was opposed to the store moving in due touts close proximity to Keuntz Elementary and O'Connor High School.

"The traffic is an absolute nightmare. You've got hundreds of high school kids who just got their licenses and usually in the morning it seems that they shift change at the same time school opens which makes for a big traffic jam," she said.

Cibolo residents opposed to plans for a new Walmart claim that the new store will increase crime in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Officials with the Helotes Police Department said officers have responded to a little more than 50 calls at the store, and a majority of the 19 arrests they have made have been for traffic violations, outstanding warrants, and shoplifting.

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