Walmart will have the right to construct a big box store on the former Pov’s Sports Bar site in Andover, but the fate of its liquor store is uncertain.
The Andover City Council Tuesday night (Aug. 21) unanimously approved the preliminary plat as well as a conditional use permit (CUP) for outdoor storage that pertains to a garden area in the parking lot, a sales area on the store front sidewalk and activities on the back side of the property. The store will be located on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street.
As recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission Aug. 14, the council restricted the outdoor seasonal garden sales area to March 15 through July 15, but it also put a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. restriction on hours of operation.
A big issue for another day is whether this Walmart will be open 24/7. Mayor Mike Gamache found that not all metro area Walmarts are 24 hours, and he does not feel this store would be suited for it.
Andover already does not allow 24-hour stores in the general business zoning district that Walmart will be in, but there is a chance that Walmart could request an exception or that the council would re-write its own code. Either action would require a public hearing.
The council took no action on Walmart’s proposed 1,328 square-foot liquor store that would have been a part of the store, but physically separated by walls from the rest of the retail area.
The council made it clear that its job was to review city code and the impacts to the property and surrounding areas. It could not take a stance on Walmart even though many residents have raised concerns about this big box store.
“We don’t get to vote on who Brad sells to,” Councilmember Julie Trude said. Brad Povlitzki has owned this site since opening Pov’s Sports Bar in 1994. The establishment closed at the end of 2011.
Had the council approved the off-sale liquor store CUP Tuesday night, Walmart would have still needed to apply for a liquor store license before opening. This also requires council approval and the license must be annually renewed. Had the council denied the CUP, Community Development Director Dave Carlberg said Walmart could have re-applied for a CUP a year from now, but it could not apply for a license until it got the CUP.
The message Trude heard from residents was that Andover has enough off-sale liquor stores. There are currently four and Northgate Liquors is right across the street from the future Walmart site. Andover city code says that the city may have one off-sale liquor store for every 6,000 people. Andover’s population is just over 30,000, so there could be one more location.
Councilmember Tony Howard said there are other areas of the community that could get this fifth liquor store once they grow.
Trude did a rough draft of findings of fact to deny the CUP, which included community opposition, proximity to other liquor stores and the concern that young families going to Walmart would be near a liquor store.
Before the council voted, Walmart representatives said the council could take more time to make a decision. City councils legally must take action on applicants’ requests within a specified time frame. The Andover council had until Aug. 23 to act on the preliminary plat and the CUP applications.
A Walmart attorney at the meeting handwrote a letter that Carlberg said granted the council another 60 days to make a decision on the CUP.
Gamache, who did not indicate how he would vote on the liquor store, said this gives the city attorney time to draft two separate resolutions, one denying the liquor store CUP and another approving it. The council would then have more time to review the wording and contemplate the pros and cons instead of making a rushed decision.
It was after 10 p.m. at this point in the meeting and City Attorney Scott Baumgartner was busy crafting a revised resolution on the outdoor storage CUP when Trude started discussing reasons for denying the liquor store CUP.
Residents urge council to listen
A sizable group of residents, although smaller than at the Aug. 14 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, showed up to the council meeting.
Dawn Schnickels-Johnson urged the council to listen to what the residents had to say. The Andover for Smart Growth group she is a part of includes residents from many concerns of the community that have concerns about Walmart coming in.
“We built this whole city, you as a governing body and us as citizens, based on the community having businesses that are small and not overwhelming and that don’t just come in and bulldoze us as a big box company,” Schnickels-Johnson said.
For example, the group does not feel there has been a good enough traffic study. Erik Miller, vice president/principal of MFRA in Plymouth and a consultant for Walmart, showed afternoon peak figures for a few nearby intersections such as Bunker Lake Boulevard intersections with Hanson Boulevard, Jay Street and the proposed three-quarters intersection at Martin Street that would allow almost all traffic movements except for vehicles turning left onto Bunker.
Schnickels-Johnson questioned what would happen once traffic leaves the site outside these intersections. She lives in the area and echoed the sentiments of other citizens, including councilmembers, who say that driving north on Hanson Boulevard during rush hour is a pain when the road is only two lanes.
Gamache said the studies that citizens asked for have been done. The city knows Hanson Boulevard, a county highway, needs to be widened north of Bunker Lake Boulevard, but City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz said this is a regional issue.
Anoka County not too long ago widened Hanson to four lanes between Main Street and Bunker Lake Boulevard. The city would like Hanson to be four lanes all the way to Crosstown Boulevard by city hall and the Andover YMCA/Community Center, Berkowitz said.
The county has applied for federal funding to get this done, but the project has not scored well, and the county’s policy is to wait for federal assistance before moving forward for these regional projects, Berkowitz said.
It looks like Bunker Lake Boulevard from Crane Street in Andover to Jefferson Street in Ham Lake could be widened because the federal government rated this project well, for example, he said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org