Blaine council delays vote on Walmart proposal

Walmart’s impact on Ball Road has been the No. 1 concern of a Blaine neighborhood. After three hours of presentations and testimony Jan. 16, the Blaine City Council said more research needs to be done on this and many other issues residents have raised.

Councilmembers Dick Swanson and Wes Hovland are the Ward 1 representatives for the area of Blaine where Walmart wants to develop its latest store. Photo by Eric Hagen
Councilmembers Dick Swanson and Wes Hovland are the Ward 1 representatives for the area of Blaine where Walmart wants to develop its latest store. Photo by Eric Hagen

The 183,072 square-foot store that Walmart wants to develop on a 39.13-acre site on the southeast corner of I-35W and Lexington Avenue and on the north side of Ball Road was targeted for a big commercial development like this, Councilmember Mike Bourke said. He thinks the neighborhood would not be as opposed if transportation was done properly.

“I personally am going to look for leadership from you to develop a way to move that transportation and protect the citizens in that area,” Bourke said to the Walmart development team gathered in the front row.

Neighborhood resident Holly Hollander said the conditional use permit states that the city must “protect the best interests of the surrounding area or community as a whole.”

“The details of this project show very little interest in protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods,” Hollander said.

Martin Harstad’s father bought three parcels in 1984 that all have a role in this discussion. One parcel became the 107-lot Belmont Acres housing development in 1985. Another parcel had three homes developed on the southeast corner of Ball Road and Lexington Avenue in the late 1990s.

Walmart is the current suitor for the third parcel, which concerns the people who live in Belmont Acres and the three homes, but Harstad said a number of different developers have been interested.

In 1999, Harstad was “in deep negotiations” with Walmart and Kohls to build on his site. Target and Cub Foods were a couple of the anchor tenants planned for The Village of Blaine commercial center on the opposite side of I-35W.

When Target in The Village failed to materialize, Walmart stepped in and agreed not to sell groceries to not compete with Cub Foods. This non-compete clause is why Walmart now wants to move to Harstad’s Ball Road site and close the store at The Village, according to Walmart spokespersons.

Target and Kohl’s subsequently developed in Lino Lakes and Harstad was left paying property taxes every year on an undeveloped commercial site. He paid $48,440 last year in property taxes, for instance.

Between 2004 and 2008, Menards, Best Buy and Lowe’s approached Harstad before building along Highway 65 in Blaine. A hotel developer was interested.

Even Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf talked to Harstad, but not for the stadium, which was proposed at the corner of Lexington and 109th avenues at one time. Harstad never heard Wilf’s plans for the site other than some type of commercial development.

Walmart and Harstad signed a purchase agreement July 26, 2010, according to Erik Miller, who is the vice president of MFRA that consults Walmart on new store developments.

“It’s been a 30-year history with my family and this piece of property,” Harstad said.

Traffic impact

Ball Road has seen increased traffic since Fleet Farm developed on the west side of Lexington Avenue, residents say, but it still only has about 3,000 vehicles a day.

The addition of Walmart could result in 9,242 more vehicles traveling the corridor every day for a total exceeding 12,000. Another 3,000 vehicles could be added on top of that once adjacent outlots that Harstad still owns gets more retail and restaurant development, an Environmental Assessment Worksheet estimated.

This would make Ball Road one of the busiest Blaine city streets, not factoring in Highway 65 or county roads. For instance, 99th Avenue west of Highway 65 sees about 9,000 vehicles a day. Davenport Street tucked between the National Sports Center and an abundance of retail development has 9,400 vehicles a day south of 105th Avenue and 8,200 vehicles a day north of there to 109th Avenue.

Walmart-hired Spack Consulting completed the traffic study and then received input from the city and Anoka County Highway Department before submitting road improvement proposals.

Ball Road will largely remain a two-lane road, but have a median from Lexington Avenue to Hupp Street, which would reduce access at Frazier and Ghia streets to a right-in, right-out. A new roundabout at Hupp Street would serve as the main access to and from Walmart.

An additional westbound to northbound right-turn lane would be added at the Ball Road and Lexington Avenue intersection. A second left-turn lane from Lexington Avenue to Hupp Street would necessitate a second through lane on Ball Road, which would quickly need to merge into one eastbound lane.

“Two lanes going down to one lane at Ball Road is an unacceptable access road,” Hollander said. “What’s going to happen when you have a two-lane road, cars flying trying to go down into one lane and there’s an accident? I beg of you to consider that.”

The issues also go beyond Ball Road. Hollander said that 103rd Avenue and Lever Street became “a race course” when Fleet Farm went in and it would only get worse with Walmart.

Councilmember Dick Swanson thinks the city should consider making 103rd Lane a no truck route. He shares the neighborhood’s concern that Hupp Street south of Ball Road may become a popular route, according to Swanson.

Residents are concerned about the safety of people walking and biking in the neighborhood, especially with there being an elementary school and high school nearby. Swanson said the city should consider trail development beyond on Walmart’s side of Ball Road.

Home values

Mayor Tom Ryan said neighbors always bring up concern of property values when a big development comes in, but it is difficult to prove the effect.

People packed into the Blaine City Hall council chambers Jan. 16 for a council meeting that mostly focused on Walmart’s proposal to construct a 183,072 square-foot store on the north side of Ball Road, east of Lexington Avenue.
People packed into the Blaine City Hall council chambers Jan. 16 for a council meeting that mostly focused on Walmart’s proposal to construct a 183,072 square-foot store on the north side of Ball Road, east of Lexington Avenue.

“If you look since 2008, property values are down 10 to 40 percent (citywide). My house is down about 35 percent,” Ryan said.

Theresa and Matthew Alberts have lived on Ball Road since the summer of 2007, according to county property tax records. Theresa told the council that they tried to sell their home recently, but an offer was pulled when the buyer discovered Walmart wanted to build across the street.

Dave Roth of Re/Max wrote in a letter shared with the city that there were buyers interested in a few homes in the vicinity of I-35W and Lexington Avenue, but became disinterested when hearing about the potential Walmart.

“In my professional opinion, home values have already dropped due to the proposal,” Roth said. “During construction, it will be near impossible to sell in the nearby neighborhoods. Once the building is built, the nearby neighborhood will lose value if not significant value. Buyers would not want to live nearby a 24-hour operation.”

Swanson, Councilmember Wes Hovland and Ryan said the city should consider the future of the three homes on the south side of Ball Road near Lexington Avenue, but Swanson would not want the city to use eminent domain.

Resident Jason Orcutt questioned whether the city could even use eminent domain on these three homes considering the road work would be taking place because of a private development.

Hovland told the Walmart development team that the neighborhood is frustrated because they are seeing a big box store come in that may meet the bare minimum requirements, but they feel the city should have met with the residents earlier to talk about ways of mitigating impact.

“This directly affects the quality of life that these people bought into for so many years,” Hovland said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]

  • mnphouka

    why do we need another Walmart in Blaine?

  • Liz Haggerty Lundgren

    This article along with the city council seem to miss one major piece of this story…the neighborhood that continues to be referenced is not blocks away it is on the same street as the proposed Walmart. Currently instead of looking at your neighbor across the street (which is what most of us see) these people look at a wooded area, now the neighbor they would look at is Walmart, it’s parking lot, semi trucks, etc….I can tell you this is NOT the view I would want and I certainly would not purchase a home that was across from a major retailer either. If Walmart goes into this space these people are stuck. There is plenty of open corners on the other side of Lexington and 35W that are not in a neighborhood, why doesn’t Walmart go there?

  • Jason Antes

    Something to note is that most of the residents are not opposed to a sane development of this parcel of land. We feel that this particular proposal is to big for the access to it as well as negatively impacting the adjacent neighborhoods and businesses. Not just the residents will suffer, but the small businesses on Ball Road who will also have to battle the increase in traffic. The traffic counts that are submitted put Ball Road into the “Failing” category according to Blaine’s own traffic guidelines for a 2 lane road.

    I agree with the Mayor that our values have gone down since 2008 due to the economy, but the rumors of this project have made it incredibly difficult to sell and have further depressed values. Then there is the issue of the 3 properties that start at the corner of Lexington and Ball roads and have driveway access on Ball road. These people will have a very difficult time getting into and out of their houses (and one of these properties has not been able to sell due to the proposed Walmart). The Mayor suggested putting a turnaround in their driveways but fails to realize that there is no room for that due to the drainage ditch running through their front yards. Add to that the proposed added lane to Ball road for the 2 lane left turn off of Lexington and that pushes the ditch further up their yards (it has to be there) as the road will be built into the easements. There is not a good solution for these 3 properties that has been put forth.

    Other issues we’ve brought up is that this project falls afoul of several of the provisions of the permit that they are seeking approval of. I urge anyone interested to go watch the council meeting and listen to the residents who speak and point these parts out with detail.

  • lavndrblue

    Just imagine living directly across the street from a 24 hour 7 day a week retailer with the traffic flowing within feet of your from door. Then, imagine trying to exit or enter your driveway safely as traffic turns onto Ball Road from the south and north bound lanes on Lexington Ave.! The current plans for Ball Road “improvements” are highly inadequate and do nothing to protect the families and their homes that line Ball Road or the families and homes on the streets of Frazier, Ghia, and Hupp. To make matters worse, at Hupp St there is to be a round-a bout as the main access to the retail site. The round-a bout sits not hundreds of feet from the homes on Hupp street, but tens of feet. Again there are safety and traffic cut through issues the City Staff has ignored and not made the developer and Wal-Mart address.
    The City Council has admitted more than once that they’ve made mistakes concerning traffic when approving other devlopments in Blaine like the Gold’s Gym traffic fiasco on Hwy 65. We don’t want to be the next big mistake! This will be a mistake that they can’t take back and will negatively impact the neighborhood beyond repair.

  • lavndrblue

    Another lack of detail in the Ball Road ‘improvement’ plans…………there are no sidewalks or crosswalks planned so the residents in the neighborhood can access the retail site safely either on foot or by bicycle! Anything at the round-a-bout would be unsafe, so everyone would need to either cut across the road and jump the median risking getting hit, or walk all the way down to Lexington Avenue to cross over to the North side of Ball Road where………….you guessed it, there isn’t a sidewalk planned to access the site.

  • Richard Burke

    I’m a City of Blaine resident and don’t even live in the neighborhood of Ball Road and understand this does not make sense. The City Council needs to step back and tell Walmart “NO” as you already have five stores within Anoka County, (1) at 11505 Ulysses St NE Blaine, (2) at 4405 Pheasant Ridge Dr NE Blaine, (3) at 1851 Bunker Lake Blvd NW Andover, (4) at 8450 University Ave NE Fridley and (5) at 13020 Riverdale Dr NW Coon Rapids. There are not even that many Target Stores (4 stores) or Cub Foods Stores ( 4 stores) in that same radius.
    If you want to build something like a market area in a small shopping scale like Maple Grove with some nice restaurants and shops that would be a lot more appealing and less traffic.

  • BlaineGal

    Wal-Mart is absolutely ridiculous! And the fact that my city is STILL considering this is disturbing to me. If this passes and Wal-Mart goes in, let there be no doubt I will be voting my members off of that Council the second I can! I don’t even live in the immediately adjacent development and I KNOW this will impact me, too! And I’m certainly not going to let my fellow neighbors be harmed without speaking up – harmed for private gain, no less. Allowing Wal-Mart to build in the proposed location blatantly disregards the wishes of thousands of Blaine residents – for what?! Because the land owner made a poor business decision? Why is that thousands of other people’s problem? What the article doesn’t tell you is that not
    only did they purchase the land many years ago, but they KEPT PURCHASING OTHER PIECES OF ADJACENT LAND. More poor business decisions. He may pay $48k in taxes in a year, but whose fault is that? We pay hundreds of thousands AND WE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE. THESE ARE NOT BUSINESS MOVES FOR US – THIS IS OUR LIFE. AND WE’RE TRYING TO LIVE IT SAFELY, PEACEFULLY, AND HAPPILY. City Council – please listen to your people.

  • lavndrblue

    I’m sure this can’t happen but what if the City Council put this decision to the voters? If this Wal-Mart is such a good idea on this parcel of land, then the City Council should put it up for a vote. The City Council couldn’t lose, right? They KNOW BEST what is good for our neighborhoods, right?
    I’m with BlaineGal………….Your voice is your vote!!!!! Find candidates to run against the sitting council members and the Mayor. Elect representatives that will stand for you, not just land owners and multi-billion dollar corporations! Elect representatives that don’t just ‘talk’ about supporting small business growth in our city! Elect representatives that will bring small businesses to our city and build retail areas where they can thrive, not be pushed out by the likes of Wal-Mart and other big boxes!!!!!!

  • lavndrblue

    A Special City Council meeting is being held February 13th at Blaine City Hall. It starts at 6:30pm and will focus on the Ball Road Wal-Mart issues. The City Council is prepared to make this the final meeting and is wanting to approve the Conditional Use Permit so that Wal-Mart can begin construction in early Spring.

    Please attend this meeting and stand with the residents in support of telling the the City Council to vote NO! They should NOT approve this development. It is wrong for or neighborhood and wrong for City of Blaine!

  • lavndrblue

    Please attend the ‘special’ Blaine City Council Meeting on February 13th, Blaine City Hall at 6:30pm. This meeting will determine if the Wal-Mart project will be allowed to move forward. We need your attendance and your voices to stop this disasterous project!
    Thank you,
    Blaine Citizens For Smart Growth