Just after the stroke of midnight Wednesday (Aug. 15), the Andover Planning Commission wrapped up a four-hour meeting in which it recommended approval of a preliminary plat for Walmart at the former Pov’s Sports Bar site along with an interior liquor store and outdoor storage and seasonal sales.
Now that the commission has acted, the Andover City Council will make a decision at its Tuesday (Aug. 21) council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Planning Commission Chairperson Dean Daninger noted most decisions made by the commission end up in 7-0 votes. The closest the it came to consensus for Walmart was a 5-2 vote approving the conditional use permit (CUP) for an off-sale liquor store. There were 4-3 votes approving the plat and CUP for outside storage, which were both heavily scrutinized.
Commissioner Michael Olsen’s comment of “the law is the law” summarized the reason why four commissioners including Danninger and Commissioners Kyle Nemeth and Steve Peterson approved the plat.
“This is a private party transaction,” Nemeth said. “I think if we were to attempt to impede that, I think we have a lot of legality issues.”
On the other hand, Commissioners Lynae Gudmundson and Valerie Holthus were concerned about traffic and wetland impact a Walmart store would bring. Commissioner Dennis Cleveland wanted his vote to reflect the opposition from the public.
One couple stated through an e-mail they would like Walmart to come in, but everyone else who spoke or sent an e-mail were in opposition.
Dawn Schnickels-Johnson read about a dozen questions before saying she feels Andover has done a great job in business development to this point and hopes the city does not allow a Walmart to ruin Andover’s small-town feel.
“The impact of this big box concept will harm several of our local businesses who have been dedicated and supported the city of Andover and our community in general,” she said. “We have gone from junk yards and dump sites to an environment which is pleasing and enjoyable.”
Gudmundson said it was hard to read the numbers of the traffic plan and she would like to see the traffic impact study. She also indicated wanting to see final approval from the Coon Creek Watershed District. Community Development Director David Carlberg noted that both the Anoka County Highway Department and the watershed district have given preliminary approvals. Common procedure requires the city’s approval of Walmart’s plat before these groups give final approvals.
Although there was strong opposition to the proposal from residents who packed the city council chambers for the 8 p.m. meeting, there were never any outbursts. There was one long applause after Schnickels-Johnson spoke, but that was it after Daninger quipped that the more applause there was, the longer they would be there.
It took about three hours to handle the preliminary plat issue. The public hearing did not start until one-and-a-half hours into the meeting at 9:30 p.m. due to a lengthy presentation by Walmart representatives and questions from commissioners. The meeting started an hour later than normal due to the primary election.
The site owned by Brad Povlitzki is 26.1-acres. He is planning to sell 19.7-acres to Walmart and keep the remaining 6.4-acres. This requires a lot split and the city is now only focusing on the proposed Walmart site.
The store itself would be approximately 151,000 square feet and have 670 parking spaces, which is 40 more than it needs to meet city code, according to Erik Miller, vice president/principal of MFRA in Plymouth. The extra spaces would be utilized for seasonal sales. The front of the store faces Bunker Lake Boulevard.
The concrete median on Bunker Lake Boulevard at Martin Street would be cut to allow three-quarters access for both the north side and south side. This means businesses such as Andover Cinema, Andover Lanes and Tanners Station get some improved access.
There would also be an access on Jay Street for shoppers and another access for truck deliveries to Walmart.
“I’m terrified during the holiday season that I’m not going to be able to get out of my household to go to work and family functions,” said Stephanie Holmblad, president of the Parkside at Andover Station’s townhome association just north of the proposed Walmart site.
Schnickels-Johnson is also concerned about the safety of kids at the nearby Foundation Hill Montessori and Childcare and ball fields.
The entrance on the west side of the store would mainly be for the grocery store, which would have a deli, meat market, bakery, frozen foods area and other typical items found at large grocery stores. The east entrance would be for the general retail area, and there will be a food vendor there.
There would be a trash compactor, loading and unloading area for semis and recycling area on the north end of the store, which is actually where homes are the closest.
Miller said some homes would be about 200 feet away from the north side of the development. Homes west of the site are about 700 feet away and buffered by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wetlands mostly owned by the city and not impacted by this development except for some infiltration of water runoff that will go through a couple different treatment basins before being discharged here, according to Miller.
A couple of residents questioned why a Walmart was needed at this site in Andover, when there was one near by in Coon Rapids. Peter Jaworski said only three miles separate the two sites.
“I’m feeling that Coon Rapids Walmart will be closing and we’ll be getting additional customer base from that area,” Kathy Heltemes said.
Mike Sims of Mid-America Real Estate in Minneapolis said it would be pure speculation to say the Walmart in Coon Rapids would close because there is no data that supports this. He noted that Walmart’s market studies have shown that most people really do not want to drive more than three to four miles to get to their shopping areas, especially when grocery stores are involved. The Coon Rapids Walmart sells some groceries, but not a full list of options that this Andover Walmart would have.
A 1,328 square-foot liquor store is planned that would sell anything from beer to hard liquor.
Andover currently has four off-sale liquor stores. City code allows one off-sale liquor store for every 6,000 people. Andover 2010 population was 30,598 people so there are just enough to have a fifth store. Carlberg said a recently completed independent market analysis of all of Andover showed this area could support a liquor store of this size.
Laurie Mount feels the city has an adequate number of liquor stores and does not see the need to have one across the street from Northgate Liquors.
Walmart representatives gave a general time frame of March through November for outdoor garden sales with Miller saying this would be weather dependent. The commission would like to restrict this to March 15 through July 15.
Eric Hagen is at email@example.com