Environmental assessment coming for Blaine Walmart

Ever since it became public knowledge that Walmart wanted to construct a new store in Blaine near the I-35W and Lexington Avenue interchange, residents have raised concerns about how this would impact the neighborhood and adjacent roads.

This resident across Ball Road from the potential Walmart development has had this sign up for some time to show their opposition.File photo by Eric Hagen
This resident across Ball Road from the potential Walmart development has had this sign up for some time to show their opposition.File photo by Eric Hagen

Walmart has yet to file an official application with the city, but it will would like an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) done so the public can see what impact developing a Walmart on the north side of Ball Road could have.

Although the city must always study how any development would impact the site and the neighborhood, an EAW is more extensive. Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said Walmart was not obligated to complete an EAW because the total square footage in Walmart’s proposal including the large store and two smaller outlot pads is estimated to not exceed 198,000 square feet and the building size threshold for a mandatory EAW is 300,000 square feet.

Nevertheless, Walmart agreed to have its consultant MFRA of Plymouth complete an EAW for the proposed store on Ball Road.

“While the site is not large enough to trigger an EAW… there are obviously going to be neighborhoods involved in this process and it would be good to create a document that talks about traffic, noise, lights, how it deals with wetlands and all those environmental impacts that come from a development of any type, in this case retail development, and try to get a document that is out in front of this,” Schafer said.

Speaking on behalf of Walmart, attorney Sue Steinwell from the Minneapolis firm of Fredrickson & Byron in Minneapolis said at the Feb. 21 Blaine City Council meeting that the EAW is being done for the reasons Schafer mentioned.

This Blaine Walmart store is not far north of the potential future store on Ball Road.File photo by Eric Hagen
This Blaine Walmart store is not far north of the potential future store on Ball Road.File photo by Eric Hagen

The Anoka County Highway Department widened Lexington Avenue in this area from two lanes to four lanes and added the interchange at I-35W in 1996. It completed an environmental assessment document before this was done, according to the highway department.

A Dec. 7, 2012 letter from Assistant County Engineer Andrew Witter stated that this 1996 assessment “will not provide accurate traffic data for the proposed Walmart site” because the site Walmart is looking to build on was zoned light industrial in the mid-1990s and is now zoned for planned commercial.

Further, the county highway department is concerned about how well traffic would flow under the improvements MFRA proposed after its initial Walmart on Ball Road development traffic study.

Cathy Harrison, one of the founders of Blaine Citizens for Smart Growth, said it is a good thing that this EAW will be done, but she and other residents feel the city should hire an independent consultant rather than using the report from the consultant with whom Walmart has already been working.

Blaine Citizens for Smart Growth is a nonprofit organization that opposes Walmart being developed on Ball Road because of its proximity to a neighborhood. Harrison said the group knows an engineer that could review the EAW and offer comments once the required 30-day commenting period is open.

The city of Blaine will review the EAW once MFRA completes a first draft. Walmart must automatically pay $900 to have this review done. The council made it clear that city staff should closely track its review expenses and charge Walmart for actual costs.

The council also wants to make sure that residents have the chance to give their feedback.

Although the time and format have yet to be determined, one idea was for the council to hold a workshop after the draft EAW is complete and then hold a public meeting at a separate workshop or during a regular council meeting. While all council workshops are open to the public, the council typically does not allow public comment at them unless they make it known that comments will be allowed.

Schafer said the city would send out public notices once the public meeting date is set up.

“I think this will eventually answer a lot of questions that have been floating around out there and will hopefully get rid of some of the myths and concerns that a lot of people have,” Councilmember Wes Hovland said.

Mayor Tom Ryan said the questions will be asked, so they should be ready for them.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]

  • Agnes

    They should not be building this Wal-Mart! They are building a Super Wal-Mart up 109th and north on Highway 65 to 117th. It seriously is only about 2 miles away. Not to mention there is a current Wal-Mart on the other side of the highway right now! Closing down the current Wal-Mart will leave a huge void in that shopping center…are they going to leave it a ghost town or fill that space.

    They tried to build one in Ham Lake a few years back. They wanted to bulldoze a couple of acres of forests and kick out a few houses. We banned together and got them to not build. Residents need to get on this and stop the Wal-Mart takeover!

    • We have banded together and we are FIGHTING this Walmart. It doesn’t belong 100 feet from single family homes!!!! The environmental impact let alone the property value impacts will put many families in jeopardy. Currently those trying to sell their homes to get out before the Walmart is built are unable to sell for what their homes are worth and some are unable to sell at all.

  • G. Rootes

    Walmart has already saturated the market in Blaine, Coon Rapids and the latest in Andover. Just more crappy junk from China and empty store fronts in your community and at the same time more low wage jobs. I see no benefit of allowing another Walmart in Blaine. Jeesh, when are we going to say no!

  • “I think this will eventually answer a lot of questions that have been floating around out there and will hopefully get rid of some of the myths and concerns that a lot of people have,” Council member Wes Hovland said.

    I wonder what myths council member Hovland is talking about? Here are the FACTS!!!

    MYTH: Big-Box Stores Create Jobs
    FACT: Studies by independent economists show that big-box stores eliminate more retail jobs than they create. A recent study examined 3,094 counties across the U.S., tracking the arrival of new Wal-Mart stores between 1977 and 2002. The study, conducted by Univ. of California economist David Neumark, found that opening a Wal-Mart store led to a net loss of 150 retail jobs on average, suggesting that a new WalMart job replaces approximately 1.4 workers at other stores (The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets, January 2007). The reason for the overall decline is that a new Wal-Mart store does not increase the amount of money that residents have to spend. Sales gains at these stores are invariably mirrored by a
    drop in revenue at existing businesses, which then must downsize or close. The job losses are larger than the gains because Wal-Mart accomplishes the same volume of sales with fewer employees. Although similar studies have not been done of other big-box retailers, it’s likely that they also have either a negative or no impact on employment because the underlying dynamics (i.e., no increases in consumer spending) are the same.

    MYTH: Big-Box Stores Boost Tax Revenue
    FACT: The tax benefits of big-box stores are negated by the cost of providing public services to these developments and declining tax revenue from existing commercial districts. Big-box development creates substantial public costs. These sprawling stores are not efficient users of public infrastructure. Compared to traditional, compact business districts, they require longer roads, more road maintenance, additional miles of
    utilities, and more fire and police time. One case study in Barnstable, Mass., found that the annual cost of providing city services to traditional downtown and neighborhood business districts was $786 per 1,000 square feet. Big-box stores were 30% more costly, requiring $1,023 in services per 1,000 sq. ft. (Tischler & Associates, Fiscal Impact Analysis of Residential and Nonresidential Land Use Prototypes, prepared for the Town of Barnstable, Jul. 1, 2002.) In addition to incurring new costs, cities that approve big-box development often experience a decline in property and sales tax revenue from existing neighborhood and downtown business districts, as well as older shopping centers. As these areas
    lose sales and experience vacancies, the value of property declines and with it, the property tax revenue. Sales tax revenue also falls. One study of 116 cities in California found that, in all but two cases, the presence of a big-box store did not correspond to increased sales tax revenue. (Bay Area Economic Forum, Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts, 2004, 74-81)

    MYTH: Big-Box Stores Grow the Economy
    FACT: Trading independent retailers for bigbox chains shrinks the volume of activity in
    the local economy. For every $100 they receive in revenue, locally owned businesses hire more local workers, purchase more goods and services from other local businesses, and contribute more to local charities than their big-box counterparts. When chains displace local businesses, it results in an overall loss of economic activity, not a gain. A 2004 study conducted in Chicago analyzed ten locally owned restaurants, retail stores, and service providers and compared them with chains competing in the same categories. The study concluded that every $100 spent at one of the independent businesses created $68 in additional economic activity in the city, while spending the same amount at a chain only generated $43 worth of local impact. (Civic Economics, The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, 2004.) One of the main reasons for the difference was that the local retailers bought more goods and services from other local businesses. They did their banking at a local bank. They hired local accountants, web designers, and other professionals. They
    turned to a local print shop for their printing, and they advertised in local publications. The chains had almost no need for these local services and spent relatively little in the city.
    A consequence of this is that even modest shifts in the mix of local and non-local businesses in a community can have signifi-cant economic ramifications. A case study in Kent County,
    Michigan, estimates that the region would gain 1,600 new jobs, $140 million in new economic activity, and $53 million in additional payroll if residents shifted 10% of their spending from
    chains to local businesses. A shift in the opposite direction — more spending at chains — would cause equivalent economic losses. (Civic Economics, Local Works: Examining the Impact of Local Business on the Western Michigan Economy, 2008.)

    MYTH: Additional Traffic impacts do not impact nearby residential property values and the noise can be mitigated.
    FACT:Big-box stores generate large volumes of traffic—much more than most other land
    uses. The amount of traffic is directly related to the size of these stores.The larger
    the store, the larger the geographic area from which it pulls customers and thus the higher the traffic counts. A 200,000-square-foot superstore typically generates more than 10,000 car trips on weekdays and more on Saturdays. The kinds of businesses that often spring
    up near big-box retailers—fast-food outlets, gas stations, and convenience stores—
    also produce large volumes of traffic. Traffic and noise depress property values
    in nearby neighborhoods. More traffic increases the cost of local government services, such as road maintenance and police.

    MYTH: Big Box Store’s impacts to the environment are minimal.
    FACT:Big-Box Parking Lots
    No other type of land use creates as much contaminated runoff as big-box retail. This is because of the vast amount of parking these stores require and the thousands of cars that
    enter their lots each day, coating the asphalt with pollutants. “Simply put, there is no other kind of surface in a watershed that produces more runoff and delivers it faster than a parking
    lot,” explained Tom Schueler of the Center for Watershed Protection. A 200,000-square-foot big-box store requires a parking lot of about 12 acres—much larger than would be needed for a similarly sized office, industrial, or residential development. This size parking lot generates 309,694 gallons of contaminated runoff during a one-inch storm.(Thomas Schueler, “The Importance of Imperviousness,” Watershed Protection Techniques, 1994)
    The explosive growth of big-box retailers in recent years has created vast new expanses of
    impervious surfaces. Since 1990, the amount of retail store space per capita in the U.S. has
    more than doubled. That translates into roughly 125,000 acres of rooftop and 375,000 acres of parking. (Stacy Mitchell, Big-Box Swindle, Beacon Press: 2006, p. 107, 119)

    We beg to differ with Council Member Hovland. He is the one that needs to do his research and represent his constituents that elected him!!!!!