Andover will let normal review process play out for Walmart

A potential Walmart development at the former Pov’s Sports Bar site in Andover must be reviewed not only by city staff, but officials with the Anoka County Highway Department and Coon Creek Watershed District as well.

Walmart is proposing to construct an approximately 150,000 square-foot store on the former Pov’s Sports Bar site in Andover on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street. This photo shows the Elk River Walmart. File photo by Kelly Johnson
Walmart is proposing to construct an approximately 150,000 square-foot store on the former Pov’s Sports Bar site in Andover on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street. This photo shows the Elk River Walmart. File photo by Kelly Johnson

The Andover City Council feels these reviews are more than enough to determine what Walmart will need to do to mitigate any stormwater runoff or traffic impact concerns that could come if the council even approves this development in the first place.

It may not be until July or August until the Andover Planning and Zoning Commission and then the city council addresses Walmart’s development proposal for the site on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Hanson Boulevard, according to Community Development Director David Carlberg. Walmart was addressed at Tuesday night’s (June 5) council meeting because approximately 140 people signed a petition requesting that the city work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency(MPCA) to undergo a more extensive Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) to find out what potential negative environmental impacts a proposed development could cause.

Minnesota requires an EAW if a project is in excess of 300,000 square feet and in a community with a population of 20,000 to 100,000. Walmart’s store on the Pov’s site on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street would be about 150,000 square feet, so an EAW would not automatically be required. The MPCA’s Environmental Quality Board left it up to the Andover City Council to determine if this more extensive environmental review is necessary.

The council unanimously stated that the EAW does not need to be done. However, Councilmember Julie Trude emphasized that just because it voted against this request does not mean the council is turning its shoulder on the citizens’ concerns.

“I feel confident that all the concerns that the residents brought up in their letter will be addressed through the process,” Trude said.

The concerns
and the response

The letter from the citizen group called Andover for Smart Growth was signed by Andover residents Lisa Bauer and Laurie Mount. Walmart received a copy of the letter from the city, and Susan Steinwall is the attorney who responded to the citizens’ claims.

The five major concerns of the group are storm water runoff due to loss of wetlands and increase in paved surfaces, light pollution because of the potential of this Walmart being open 24 hours a day, increase in traffic causing additional noise and increase in air emissions, proximity of schools and parks to this development and the loss of wildlife habitat.

The citizens stated that Andover had several ponding issues in 2011 due to the amount of snow, rain and the lack of infrastructure to handle the increased runoff. Covering more land with paved surfaces would cause more problems. In addition, the group was concerned about the shrinking water table in Andover, and that increased pollutants could cause issues for nearby residents to the west and northwest of the site who still use wells.

Steinwall responded that Walmart will apply for a wetland permit from the Coon Creek Watershed District. No portion of a nearby Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wetland will be impacted. Approximately 2,000 square feet of wetland will be impacted, but Walmart will go through the wetland mitigation process. She also said Walmart will be closing the on-site well at the former Pov’s site and will use city water so it would not be drawing down the water table from using an on-site well. Walmart will also be constructing two storm water ponds to remove pollutants from the water running off the parking lot.

Regarding residents’ concerns about light pollution from having a 24 hour store, Steinwall responded that Walmart’s lighting plan will meet all city requirements. Mayor Mike Gamache said there will be more lights than there are now on the former Pov’s site, but it would be similar to the number of lights in the Target parking lot across the street. That Target is about 140,000 square feet, so Walmart is proposing a store that would only be about 10,000 square feet larger.

The Andover for Smart Growth group says California’s standard for diesel particle matter is designed to protect the most sensitive group of people including infants and children. The group noted that the Foundation Hill Montessori school, the Andover Station North ball fields, the Fairview clinic, Kindercare, Andover Preschool and For Kids Only are the facilities less than 0.7 miles away from the proposed Walmart.

“The increase in traffic will cause an increase in air pollution in the general area from exhaust from tail pipe emissions,” the letter stated.

The citizen group does not explain why California air standards apply in Minnesota, Steinwall wrote. However, she added that Walmart delivery truck drivers are required to turn off their engines while making deliveries rather than letting the engines idle. Steinwall said that even if California air standards were to apply in Andover, air quality will not be harmed as a direct result of the Walmart development.

Carlberg said any development in the area will bring more traffic and thus more emissions.

The Andover for Smart Growth group noted that within two miles of the proposed location is “one of the areas finest regional parks. The entire area is abundant with birds and wildlife.” The park is not named, but Bunker Hills Regional Park is the only true regional park in the vicinity. Steinwall said the citizens’ group does not explain or offer evidence on how Walmart will harm regional parks, nesting areas or regional trails.

“They needed to go to the point of convincing us that there were issues that would not be addressed by proper regulatory channels and bodies that are in place to watch for all those things,” Trude said regarding the burden of proof being on the citizens’ group. “There weren’t facts at all. There were assertions, and there were concerns stated.”

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]