Tuesday, Mar. 05 2013 3:41PM
Second LS Wal-Mart plan approved
By Russ Pulley
A plan for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in south Lee’s Summit won approval with City Council members apparently persuaded the discount chain will build a new road to help with traffic.
The decision didn’t go down well with opponents, even with that honey.
On Facebook there’s talk of recalling council members.
Tim Kirkpatrick and Brandi Riggs, two leaders of Citizens for Responsible Development, said the council and city staff seemed to be pro-Wal-Mart through the whole approval process.
Some tougher “sustainability” standards to be applied in the Missouri 150 Corridor where the store is to be built are on hold, allowing the Wal-Mart application to go forward. The proposal was brought forward just as an “overlay” applying those standards was being prepared for a vote by the council.
Then the project nearly died earlier this month when the council narrowly voted against Wal-Mart due to traffic concerns. It reversed that decision at the same meeting, putting the store on life support.
City staff, during a re-opened public hearing Feb. 28, reiterated why the council should approve the Supercenter.
Traffic Engineer Michael Park said that the project meets all city standards. Intersections would meet city goals for level of service, once required street improvements paid for by Wal-Mart are completed.
“It did seem like things that were stated weren’t very objective,” Riggs said after the meeting. “There wasn’t a con mentioned.”
Kirkpatrick and Riggs said opponents will continue fighting and look at options for defeating the proposal. Supporters of the plan say the retailer will bring needed sales tax revenue to the city.
The council voted 6-2, with Brian Whitley and Kathy Hofmann voting no, to draft an ordinance for rezoning needed by the Supercenter.
The next steps will be for the city to finalize a development agreement with Wal-Mart regarding street improvements needed to handle traffic to the store. It would include several additional turning lanes serving the Market Street and M-150 intersection.
Added to the mix is an expectation that Wal-Mart will build another street for a second access besides Market. And the council will have to vote to approve the rezoning.
The city and Missouri Department of Transportation, when analyzing traffic, said a second north-south road (west of Market) leading to the Wal-Mart with a connection with Summitcrest Drive would be desirable, but not required, Park said.
Christine Bushyhead, an attorney representing Wal-Mart, testified she had gotten signatures for a donation of right-of-way, from landowners, for the second road to reach the Supercenter at 3410 SW Market St.
However, the construction cost of the road is about $500,000, which would exceed the amount the corporation had budgeted for off-site improvements.
The total road improvements would be about $1.2 million, she said.
Bushyhead said the increased amount needs be approved by Wal-Mart.
“If you’re going to make it a requirement of us, so be it, we’ll see if we can make the numbers work,” Bushyhead said.
Councilmember Ed Cockrell referred to the proposed street as “the yellow-brick road” because it was highlighted in yellow on a projection screen during the hearing.
He said he didn’t expect Wal-Mart to bear the road’s full cost, only Wal-Mart’s share.
The city’s practice is to try and spread costs of infrastructure in an area being newly developed between the parties benefitting from the roads, water or sewers. The road could encourage additional commercial sites to develop, on property with different landowners than Wal-Mart.
Cockrell asked city staff to find a mechanism for reimbursing Wal-Mart for part of the cost, with the remainder to be covered by future development.
Other issues were raised concerning location of the store.
Hofmann, and some residents, questioned whether the big-box store fit in the goals of having walkable “sustainable” neighborhoods called for the in the Missouri 150 Corridor plan adopted by the city.
She said residents in the area cooperated with the city for weeks of public meetings to create the corridor plan.
Director of Development Bob McKay said that the area where the Supercenter is to be built was designated for office, retail or a single retail use like a big-box store. He said the plan calls for residential development to the northwest of the Wal-Mart, so people would be able to ride or walk to the store. It also would spur more commercial development, he said.
Hofmann was skeptical of the long-term economic benefit.
“What’s it going to do to the businesses established there?” she said.