Blaine residents get first look at Walmart plans

The public got its first glance at Walmart’s plan to build a new 183,000 square foot store near the I-35W and Lexington Avenue interchange, on the north side of Ball Road in Blaine.

Although a proposed Walmart development has garnered public scrutiny over the past couple of years once neighbors became aware of it, a Tuesday evening, Dec. 3 open house was the first time the public saw plans after Walmart officially submitted an application last month. The Blaine Planning Commission will host a public hearing next Tuesday, Dec. 10, starting at 7 p.m. before the issue goes to the Blaine City Council.

Although a proposed Walmart development has garnered public scrutiny over the past couple of years once neighbors became aware of it, a Tuesday evening, Dec. 3 open house was the first time the public saw plans after Walmart officially submitted an application last month. The Blaine Planning Commission will host a public hearing next Tuesday, Dec. 10, starting at 7 p.m. before the issue goes to the Blaine City Council.Photo by Eric Hagen

The city hosted an open house Tuesday evening, Dec. 3 at Blaine City Hall. A public hearing is also scheduled for the Dec. 10 Blaine Planning Commission meeting that begins at 7 p.m. The next step would then be for the Blaine City Council to review the proposal, maybe as early as Jan. 16, 2014.

Although Walmart did not submit an application until Nov. 8, it has been the focus of plenty of public scrutiny from the neighborhood south of the proposed store. Residents fear additional traffic cutting through their neighborhood and bright lights from the parking lot will affect their quality of life and property values.

Patti Evans is disturbed that this development would result in the loss of many trees, and that Walmart already has a store nearby. Evans believes Walmart just wants a better location next to the freeway.

“What I don’t like is it seems like greed is driving it,” said Evans, who has lived with her husband Wes on 103rd Avenue behind Centennial High School for about 10 years.

Erik Miller, vice president/principal of MFRA and a consultant of Walmart for development projects, said Walmart’s current store in The Village of Blaine shopping center has a covenant restricting it from selling groceries because Cub Foods is also located in the shopping center.

“We’ve been working on this site for a couple of years,” Miller said. “It’s been a long process to get to the point to submit an application.”

Marty Harstad owns the 39-acre site that he wants to sell to Walmart. He said it is properly zoned for commercial and developers have looked at this site for a movie theater, a hotel, a big box hardware store, or a mall anchored by a grocery store, but other sites were ultimately chosen.

“I’m not sure I encountered anyone willing to do as much to minimize impact to the community as Walmart has,” he said.

Harstad said he is accessible and happy to answer people’s questions and has been pleased with the process because it has given the community a lot of chances to comment.

This included completing an Environmental Assessment Worksheet that was not required because of the size of its development, according to Blaine Community Development Director Bryan Schafer. That document also looked at the potential impacts of another 24,900-square-feet of retail, office, bank or restaurant uses that Walmart at that time was looking at including in the development, but that building was not part of its recent application.

Six government agencies and seven residents commented on this document completed by Walmart-hired Spack Consulting. Comments addressed a wide variety of issues such as ecological impacts to the property and animals, water and wastewater needs, controlling erosion, and hauling in fill, but traffic has been a biggest part of the discussion.

This development is anticipated to bring in an additional 12,386 daily trips, which actually would be 6,193 vehicles coming and going, according to the environmental assessment worksheet.

The southbound I-35W exit ramp to Lexington Avenue will get a longer right turn lane. Ball Road will get a concrete median from Lexington Avenue to a new roundabout at Hupp Street. At the Lexington Avenue intersection would be new left and right turn lanes on westbound Ball Road and a second left turn lane on southbound Lexington Avenue for traffic going east to Ball Road and Walmart.

Jennifer and Mark Dougan and their three kids live in a home at the corner of these two intersections. They moved in 18 months ago, after there had been publicity about Walmart’s interest in this site, but there was no indication that a Walmart application to the city was guaranteed.

“We heard rumors, but some thought it wouldn’t happen here because it’s in a neighborhood,” Mark said.

Jennifer said, “This is our dream house” and they worked hard to get it. They moved from a home with two bedrooms for their three kids to a three-bedroom home. They have planted maple trees and raspberry bushes. It is close to where they work. Mark is a youth pastor at Living Faith Church and occasionally hosts students groups at his home.

Mark said it is already dangerous to turn into their driveway because of people following too close even as they slow down and signal they are turning.

The Blaine Citizen for Smart Growth group that is opposing this Walmart development believes some measures to prevent traffic from cutting through the neighborhoods would be to purchase the three homes that line Ball Road to tear them down a build a 12-foot to 16-foot landscaped berm from Lexington Avenue to Hupp Street. This would cut off direct access of these streets to Ball Road and provide a visual buffer.

It also believes Walmart should not be open 24/7 and should have the same operating hours as the nearby Fleet Farm.

David and Maria Meyer have lived on Marmon Street since 1988 and say a lot of people already take a shortcut through there when coming from or going to the east. Blaine Citizens for Smart Growth says the city should consider a cul-de-sac on this street to prevent semis and customers from using this road.

“The additional traffic is our main concern. This is already a high volume road for being a residential street,” Maria said.

Eric Hagen is at
eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

 
  • Rachel Kahler

    And…what would happen to the Walmart already there? Will it remain there or become a big empty building? Blaine has 2 Walmarts already. There is definitely no need for another.

  • lavndrblue

    “I’m not sure I encountered anyone willing to do as much to minimize impact to the community as Walmart has,” he said.

    “HE” is Marty Harstad the property owner who is living in an alternate reality. Where has Walmart done anything in their plan to minimize the impact to our community? By NOT dealing with the immediate neighborhood’s economic and safety issues? By NOT mitigating the issue of traffic that includes semi-trucks driving in front of the homes that line Ball Road? By NOT trying at any level to be compatible with our neighborhoods? By NOT doing everything they can to protect our property values? By NOT insisting that the city build an alterate entrance that won’t force customers and delivery trucks through our neighborhood streets, past a gradeschool and past a highschool?

    And, what has the City Council’s appointed City Staff done to make sure their constituents are protected from property devaluation, noise pollution, light pollution, drinking water safety, just to name a few of the issues? N.O.T.H.I.N.G.!!!!! What has the City Council and their appointed City Staff done to make sure that the small businesses in the Village and on Lake Drive are protected and not put out of business because Walmart will now be able to sell full groceries and hardware…..and probably alchohol in the near future? N.O.T.H.I.N.G. !!!!!

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