Walmart is proposing a 160,000-square-foot Super-
center in south Lee’s Summit and this week made a step toward approval.
The Planning Commission on Jan. 8 voted 5-2 to recommend that the City Council OK rezoning to allow a green-field development for a Walmart and two pad sites on 24 acres at the northwest side of Missouri 291 and Missouri 150.
Commission members Colene Roberts and John Reece voted no. The issue is to be heard by the City Council Feb. 7.
The vote came after some pointed criticism for parts of Walmart’s proposal.
The project would cost an estimated $25 million and include the usual Supercenter offerings, including grocery, pharmacy, automotive and garden center.
Architects for Walmart described the project as a newer version of the discount store with a number of “sustainable” features that reduce waste and energy consumption.
It would include 220 skylights, LED lighting in the parking lot, compost bins (where the store and patrons can dispose of organic material that would be picked up by a composting company). It would be constructed of pre-cast concrete and brick facade.
Commission member Colene Roberts questioned whether a Walmart Supercenter fit into the plans for the M-150 Corridor to be a sustainable mixed use area of office, housing and commercial projects. Roberts said she is worried whether Walmart will remain at the location long term, or if not, if it will cut into business of a nearby stores. Either way, the city could end up with another empty big box store, she said.
“I also remember how long that building sat empty when they moved across town,” Roberts said. The Walmart location near U.S. 50 and Third Street remained empty for years, when it moved that store to the current site on Missouri 291 and Tudor Road.
She also questioned the long-term viability of having a string of Walmart stores along Missouri 291 from Harrisonville to Independence.
Roberts predicted one would eventually close.
“We’re in the middle... I believe it will be one of ours,” she said.
Christine Bushyhead, an attorney representing Walmart, also had asked the commission for a couple of modifications to city staff’s suggestions for a development agreement. The city wants Walmart to pay for adding a second southbound, left-turn lane to Market Street approaching M-150. Bushyhead said traffic studies show that a second lane isn’t necessary and asked that the city “monitor” the traffic.
It also wanted 14 signs for the site, most of them on the building to identify service such as the drive-through pharmacy, with one monument sign of 355 square feet that was many times larger than the city’s standards.
The monument sign is planned to be visible to Missouri 291 traffic, Bushyhead said.
The city’s Unified Development Ordinance sets a standard of three signs, but allows the Planning Commission or City Council to be more liberal and make exceptions on request. Hector Soto, Jr., senior planner for the city, said the staff thought Walmart’s sign requests were proportional to the size of the building.
Bushyhead said the signs were mostly to help customers choose parking near the section of the store where they need to shop, a safety feature to reduce cruising through parking lots.
“It’s not like we’re wall to wall signs,” Bushyhead said.
Planning Commission Chairman Daren Fristoe said the sign regulations are a problem because it leaves the commission and city staff with vague guidelines.
Commission member Jason Norbury said there are city council members already concerned about signage on buildings so it is appropriate to let the council debate the issue. He commented that if Walmart has an extra large monument sign, it doesn’t need a large Walmart plastered on its store front to identify the building.
After discussion the commission’s decision was to recommend allowing Walmart three signs, including the extra-large monument size sign, noting that the City Council has final say in adjusting the number of signs.
Norbury asked how the city would get the turning lane paid for later, if it only “monitors” the situation, unless taxpayers assume that burden.
“Ten years from now, when its necessary, it’s going to be an awful hard wrangle,” Norbury said.
Commission member Kathy Smith said she thought the turning lanes should be built now, at Walmart’s expense. Bushyhead said Walmart’s position, based on traffic study, that it would be future development that overloads the intersection and Walmart shouldn’t have to pay for the additional capacity.
Fristoe said that the new style of Walmart is a better project than earlier versions of Supercenters. He said he supported the project.
“Walmart is an economic engine,” he said.