FAIRWAY, Kan. - A former city councilman brought the debate about a new Walmart in nearby Mission, Kan., to a small community over the weekend, distributing a letter to neighbors about the project that many are now calling offensive.
The letter discusses several perceived threats to nearby property values, most notably the Walmart planned for the Gateway development. The letter also discusses customers of a "different class" that might move to Fairway when the Walmart opens.
"Be honest with yourself," the letter says. "Most of them are of a different class in that they do not feel the desire of a beautiful neighborhood and maintaining property values. When they move in we will start to see junk cars in disrepair in front yards along with other trash, and down will go the property values. Big time!!"
John Ridenour, a city council member for 16 years, wrote and distributed the letter which calls for recipients to attend a Ward 4 meeting on Tuesday night.
Ridenour refused repeated interview requests and spoke with 41 Action News only briefly, through a partially closed door.
He answered most questions about the letter with questions of his own, but did say that he had not meant for the letter to be offensive to any particular group.
"There was nothing intended to be incendiary or offensive at all about it and you're trying to make me say that there was," Ridenour told 41 Action News. "I never intended that and that's not the words. It's your interpretation of it. Your particular slant."
Neighbors who received the letter on doorstops and in mailboxes over the weekend said they were disappointed in its contents and the perception it might give others of their community.
"I thought it was kind of offensive to the people it was directed at," Jim Bade, a Fairway resident for 28 years, said. "Fairway has the laws in place that are going to protect out property values."
Ginny Ewing, who has lived here since 1989, agreed.
"We thought it was odd and unfortunate and didn't agree or quite understand where he was coming from on it," she said.