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Wal-Mart inspecting Sioux Falls petitions

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Residents who oppose a proposed new Wal-Mart store in a residential Sioux Falls neighborhood have submitted petitions seeking a public vote next April on the rezoning of land to accommodate the 180,000-square-foot supercenter.

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The Save Our Neighborhood group submitted about 6,300 petition signatures — more than the 5,100 needed to refer the City Council's decision to rezone about 40 acres of land from agricultural use to commercial use.

City Clerk Lorie Hogstad's office is certifying whether there are enough valid signatures. Wal-Mart has until 5 p.m. Monday to contest the petitions. Hogstad told the Argus Leader newspaper ( ) that Wal-Mart officials have informed her they plan to do so.

"We are really pleased that the city provides a process and opportunity for people to do their own due diligence and review petitions," Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Delia Garcia said in a statement. "We are taking that opportunity and carefully reviewing what has been submitted."

Petition signatures can be disqualified if someone isn't registered to vote or lives outside the city limits. Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said his office has received a request tied to the Wal-Mart referendum seeking copies of signatures on voter registration forms. His office is consulting with an attorney about whether those signatures are a public record, he said.

The Save Our Neighborhood group tried to refer a separate zoning issue to this year's April ballot, but a city audit invalidated 20 percent of the group's petition signatures. If that happens again, the latest effort might also fail. Opponent Dana Palmer said the group plans to scrutinize any invalidated signatures if the measure fails to make the ballot.

"Do I think there will be an attempt to invalidate signatures on a basis maybe not supported? Yes," she said.

Palmer also said she is not surprised that Wal-Mart is reviewing the petitions.

"I think they're worried, as they should be," she said.

Wal-Mart Stores earlier agreed to several changes to make the planned store a better fit for the neighborhood, such as smaller signs and no overnight parking. The company also has said it has received positive feedback from the community.

"We think we need to keep in mind that this issue was approved by the City Council on a near unanimous vote," Garcia said.