Despite unanimous approvals on Wal-Mart’s final plat and reconstruction plans for Ball Road, the Blaine City Council May 15 had some disagreements on construction times for Ball Road and whether the city should purchase an affected home.
In addition to its traditional retail goods, Wal-Mart’s 183,072-square-foot store will include a full offering of groceries and a pharmacy.
No tentative opening date has been announced. Wal-Mart officials have said this store would replace a nearby Wal-Mart at The Village of Blaine that cannot sell groceries because of a covenant agreement to not compete with nearby Cub Foods.
Wal-Mart consultant Erik Miller, vice president and principal of MFRA, said site work will begin this summer on the store. They are not able to nail down a start date for Ball Road. The plan is to finish work on the store’s site before Wal-Mart pays to reconstruct Ball Road so that truck traffic only is on the old road.
Construction on Wal-Mart’s 39-acre property can happen from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to city code.
When crews are working on Ball Road, they will be restricted to 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“We normally go by the ordinance, but normally we don’t have major construction going on right in front of residential locations either, which makes this a rather unique situation,” said Councilmember Dick Swanson, who proposed the shorter work hours on Ball Road, but not on Wal-Mart’s site.
Miller anticipated 60 days to complete Ball Road. City Engineer Jean Keely said cutting back the allowed work hours for Ball Road by two hours per day would probably add a couple of weeks to the project.
Mayor Tom Ryan and Councilmembers Clark and Kathy Kolb voted against Swanson’s motion.
“I think I’d rather have it over more quickly than stretch it out,” said Kolb, who suggested a solution of not allowing trucks to start arriving and idling their engines at 6:30 a.m. in preparation of the 7 a.m. start time.
Councilmember Wes Hovland, who represents this area of Blaine along with Swanson supported this motion as did Councilmembers Mike Bourke and Russ Herbst from Wards 2 and 3 respectively.
Ball Road and beyond
Miller said they are still waiting final approving from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a longer turn lane on the southbound I-35W exit ramp to Lexington Avenue and Anoka County Highway Department approval for a second left-turn lane for southbound Lexington Avenue traffic heading east on Ball Road.
Eastbound Ball Road will get a second through lane to Hupp Street. Westbound traffic heading from Wal-Mart to Lexington Avenue will still only have one through lane, but will get dedicated right and left turn lanes by Lexington Avenue.
Hupp Street access south of Ball Road will be closed off and a concrete median will make it impossible for westbound traffic to take Frazier or Ghia streets to cut through the neighborhood to the south whenever Ball Road is backed up at the Lexington Avenue intersection. Ball Road currently has about 3,000 vehicles a day and a Wal-Mart consultant estimated an increase to over 12,000 vehicle trips a day once the new store opens.
The council on a 6-1 vote determined 103rd Avenue from Lever Street to Sunset Avenue would be marked as a no-truck route. Kolb opposed because she wanted to see what happened first with truck traffic.
Marty Harstad, who sold the 39 acres to Wal-Mart and continues to own two parcels on the north side of Hupp Street and Ball Road, has reached an agreement to purchase two homes on the south side of Ball Road near Lexington Avenue.
The council on a 6-1 vote approved purchasing another home on the south side of Ball Road by Frazier Street. The Blaine Economic Development Authority, which has its own taxing authority and budget but is made up only of the seven city council representatives, would need to officially approve the purchase once a price is negotiated.
Hovland said despite the new eight-foot-tall wood fence that would run along the south side of Ball Road, this home is unique because its driveway is on Frazier Street, but its front faces Ball Road. Swanson said other remaining homes in this area have their sides facing Ball Road.
The homeowner was at the council meeting and said he was willing to sell his property. Hovland’s motion was to make an offer within 5 percent of the market value.
City Manager Clark Arneson said the city is able to shift Ball Road slightly north to the east of Frazier Street to Hupp Street, but was unable to move the road further away from this property because of a planned stormwater pond and existing wetland to the north. Swanson said the curve in the road could lead to a lot of lights shining into this home unless the fence was extended along the whole property line.
“He is kind of getting the raw end of the deal,” said Herbst, who added that the three pine trees that would have provided some screening would have also needed to be removed.
Ryan was the only one who voted against the city purchasing this property.
“I think we’d set a precedence here,” Ryan said. “Every time we do a contested project we get a request from someone to buy their land and we don’t do it.”
After the EDA purchases the property, it could re-sell it. Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said the funding would come from pooled Tax Increment Financing coming from other TIF districts in the city. A new TIF District is not being created.
Kolb had no opposition to purchase property, but said the council would be “naive” to think can re-sell this property without taking a loss. She does not want to invest a lot improving this property besides the fence.
Hovland said the city should explore new siding, windows and perhaps some interior improvements before putting it back on the market.
“I have to believe there would be some young families out there interested in purchasing this,” Hovland said.
Cathy Harrison, whose home on 107th Avenue will be east of Wal-Mart’s loading docks, said Kolb’s concerns about the city absorbing a loss from buying and re-selling this property is an admittance that values would decrease because of this project.
“I’ve lost all faith in my local government,” said Harrison, who headed up the Blaine Citizens for Smart Growth group that opposed the Wal-Mart project.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org