For the next 30 days, starting June 24, the city of Blaine will be accepting public comment on a preliminary environmental study that evaluates potential impacts of a Walmart development proposed on the north side of Ball Road in Blaine.
Walmart has not filed an official application to construct an 182,171 square-foot store and 24,900 square feet of retail, office, bank or restaurant uses, but the community has known for some time that the large commercial retailer is interested in this 39-acre site east of Lexington Avenue and south of I-35W.
Its consultant MFRA, Inc. completed the environmental assessment worksheet on which the city of Blaine is now inviting the community and government agencies to comment.
Before voting unanimously to start this public review of the environmental investigation document, the Blaine City Council stressed that this is just another step in a long review process.
“Passing this tonight does not mean the city is endorsing or voting yes or no on Walmart,” Councilmember Dave Clark said. “This is a procedural task that we do with any large development. It’s just part of our due diligence and part of our regulatory process.”
According to Community Development Director Bryan Schafer, the council in August would determine whether an additional environmental study is necessary.
If it feels Walmart supplied enough information on issues such as ecological impacts to the property and animals, water and wastewater needs, controlling erosion, hauling in fill and disposal of hazardous wastes during construction, Walmart could subsequently file a development application with the city and kick off another round of review.
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This would include a public hearing at a Blaine Planning Commission meeting.
That would be when the majority of the neighborhood’s traffic concerns could be addressed, the council said. Although the environmental assessment worksheet does address traffic for the site, the adjacent neighborhood said it does not address how local streets in front of their homes would be impacted.
“I have yet to hear one good common sense reason to go forward with this project,” said neighborhood resident Harold Hollander.
Councilmember Dick Swanson asked that Circle Pines and Lino Lakes receive a copy of the environmental planning document so they could also raise any traffic or storm water drainage concerns they may have.
Clark said the council must balance the property owner Marty Harstad’s rights and the concerns of the neighborhood.
Mayor Tom Ryan said the council also represents businesses and property owners, not just the residents.
“We represent 62,000 people in the city, not just the residents there,” Ryan said. “So if we get ourselves into a major lawsuit, all 62,000 people in the city will pay that bill.”
Ryan said Walmart may decide not to make a development application after the environmental assessment worksheet review process is completed. The city is taking this one week at a time, he said.
This property is properly zoned for this type of development though, Ryan said.
“If it isn’t Walmart, it’s going to be someone else and it’s going to be big,” he said.
All environmental assessment worksheet documents or a 24-page summary can be found on the city’s website (www.ci.blaine.mn.us) or at Blaine City Hall in the planning department, 10801 Town Square Drive NE, Blaine, MN 55449.
Questions or written comments should be forwarded to Schafer at email@example.com or 763-785-6144.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org