Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 4:14PM
Wal-Mart decision in limbo
By Russ Pulley
A proposed Wal-Mart store in south Lee’s Summit could easily be confused with a zombie movie.
Several times over a span of years the retail giant has sought to build a store in the vicinity of the intersection of Missouri 150 and Missouri 291.
At the Lee’s Summit City Council meeting Feb. 7 it died again, when rezoning of the property failed to get support from enough council members. It was resurrected a few minutes later after council members traded barbs over who killed the project, then voted to unanimously to reconsider.
That leaves Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s application still in the discussion stage before the council.
Opponents of the measure said they’d hoped for a definite no, but would be vigilant for when the issue is again considered by the council.
Tim Kirkpatrick, a leader of South Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Development which formed to oppose the project, said the group is not against development or a Wal-Mart store, if it is in the right location. But not at 3410 S.W. Market Street.
“We don’t want Wal-Mart, not that we want any big box store, we want our little piece of paradise,” Kirkpatrick said in an interview.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s representatives had left the council chambers thinking the project was rejected.
On Feb. 8, Christine Bushyhead, an attorney representing Wal-Mart, said the company was informed the application is still pending.
She said Wal-Mart is “evaluating the outcome so far " and does not have comment at this time.
Mayor Randy Rhoads said the city would wait for Wal-Mart to decide what it wants to do, and if there is a viable solution to traffic concerns expressed by council members.
The project won’t require another public hearing; it is unclear when the issue will next be on the council agenda.
Opponents suggest moving it to other vacant land that doesn’t already have homes nearby, such as the Raintree Lake subdivision.
Council members Rob Binney, Allan Gray, Ed Cockrell and Kathy Hofmann voted no on whether to draft an ordinance rezoning property for the store; Bob Johnson, Derek Holland and Dave Mosby voted yes. Brian Whitley was absent, he was on a business trip that had been planned far in advance of the meeting agenda.
Traffic emerged as a big issue for Binney, Gray, Cockrell and Hofmann. Whitley, in a written statement read by Mayor Randy Rhoads, also said he wouldn’t support the plan as it had been presented because of traffic.
Wal-Mart already has agreed to additional turn lanes for Market Street. And city staff had agreed with the improvements recommended by a traffic study made by consultants for Wal-Mart.
Opponents questioned the accuracy of the Wal-Mart study and if the improvements would be sufficient.
They also raised concerns about increased crime and impact on property values in the several hours long hearing.
Binney, Hofmann and Gray said they wanted more time and information on the traffic issues.
“My only real issue is traffic, we need to take a harder look at that,” Binney said.
Bob Johnson and Derek Holland said a delay would be inconsistent with a previous council decision approving a $5 million subsidy to a Price Chopper and other retail at U.S. 50 and Todd George Parkway.
(Price Chopper will get part of tax-increment financing the city will collect in sales taxes and property taxes generated by the grocery which will help the city pay for interchange improvements in the Todd George area.)
In that TIF debate a couple of weeks ago, Holland, Johnson, and Mosby wanted to cut a tougher deal with Price Chopper. They proposed a delay to allow more negotiations but lost.
At this week’s meeting, Holland asked “If we postpone it, what are we going to ask staff to come up with?”
Cockrell proposed asking Wal-Mart to escrow money for future improvements, if necessary because of the development.
Wal-Mart already has agreed to additional turn lanes for Market Street. City staff reported that the improvements to be made by Wal-Mart were adequate.
Gray said he encountered a major traffic accident at the QuikTrip on Market Street and Missouri 150, which is just south of the Wal-Mart site.
“I’m not convinced that intersection is the best we can do,” Gray said, but added he did think it was a good project for economic development.
Mosby moved that the city draft an ordinance for the rezoning, with a second by Holland. Gray suggested an amendment to do additional study in tandem, but City Manager Steve Arbo told the council that could cause additional problems, so the idea was dropped.
Mosby’s proposal to go forward with an ordinance for zoning then failed.
While the council discussed more traffic studies and the status of Wal-Mart’s application, Mosby commented that city staff several times said the road plan met city standards.
He said the city needed tax revenue, and Wal-Mart was proposing to build without asking for any incentives.
“Two weeks ago we gave the farm away to a grocery store,” Mosby said. “They’re going to give us dollar one of all their taxes, big tax dollars, and we’re shooting them down.”
He laid the blame at four members who voted no.
Cockrell said he had wanted a delay and that “hotheads” forced the vote. Mosby called Cockrell a “mayor wannabe” and Cockrell shot back an expletive. A while later Cockrell apologized and also moved to reconsider the application, with a second by Binney.