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Dozens protest proposed Walmart in Watertown

Cite noise, traffic, threat to small business owners

 Ellen Siegel (left), Michael Fein, Nathan Feinfeld, 4, and Isaac Feinfeld, 7, all from Watertown, were among the protesters.
Ellen Siegel (left), Michael Fein, Nathan Feinfeld, 4, and Isaac Feinfeld, 7, all from Watertown, were among the protesters.(ESSDRASMSUAREZ/GLOBE STAFF)

WATERTOWN - A spirited crowd of about 50 protesters gathered at a vacant industrial property to demonstrate their opposition to the possible construction of a Walmart store.

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.

Walmart spokesman 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 Walmart 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 last week by those opposed to a new store.

Some residents have expressed concerns about increased traffic, noise, property devaluation, and threats to small business owners.

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

“Imagine a better development here,’’ Mandel told gathered protesters. “We hope that Walmart 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 e-mail Friday that the corporation creates jobs, generates tax revenue, contributes to nonprofit organizations, 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.


Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jreiss.globe@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaclynReiss.