Wal-Mart Project Gets Chilly Reception from Caledonia Residents

A look at who was there, what their signs said, and what the project looks like.

Hundreds of people showed up to an informational meeting held Monday about a potential Wal-Mart coming to Caledonia.

While the project hasn't formally been proposed to Village officials and would require several approvals before moving forward, the development would be located on the northwest corner of Highway 31 and Four Mile Road.

Unhappy with the idea of a commercial development being put on a property currently zoned residential, citizens registered complaint after complaint with Wal-Mart officials about the project. If there were people who supported a potential Wal-Mart store in Caledonia, only a few people publicly indicated their support for the project during the meeting.

The bottom line: most of the crowd didn't want the 115,000 square-foot building in that location. They preferred to have it located along Highway 32 where land is zoned commercial and isn't near land held by the Caledonia Conservancy.

Still, Lisa Nelson, a corporate affairs official from Wal-Mart, said her team wanted to hear about objections to the project to see if they could mitigate concerns or if they were too large to overcome. An architect, developer, civil engineer, real estate broker, and corporate attorney fielded numerous questions about property values, environmental concerns, the impact of the project on the Racine County Pony Club's horse trails, and how good of a corporate citizen Wal-Mart would be if they came to Caledonia.

Frank Gaitlin, of Gaitlin Development, explained that the store would employ between 150 to 200 people.

The average pay would be about $12.50 an hour, Nelson said.

At times, Wal-Mart officials seemed unprepared as audience members brought research documents and photos. Tempers also flared from the audience over several topics.

By the end of the meeting, which lasted for two hours, Nelson explained the team would take the residents concerns, discuss them and decide whether or not the issues could be overcome.

All of the Village Board members attended the meeting, but they didn't ask any questions.

Ron Coutts, the Village President, said the board wanted to listen to the information and neighbors' concerns.

"Right now, we'll take this information back with us, do our research, call a meeting and discuss it," Coutts said. "We'll probably bring in the planning commission members and will discuss if we want to go forward or if we want to find another location in the village for Wal-Mart.

"And if Wal-Mart doesn't want another location, we'll probably part ways and move on."

Jay Warner March 31, 2011 at 06:24 AM
JW, please get over the idea that the Journal-Times poll is more than an on-line poll of those who can use the web well enough to click a mouse over one side or the other. If we were to fall into line for an on-line poll, we'd all have trains and a train station at 4 Mile & Douglas by now - that poll was strongly in favor of the KRM commuter line. Now _that_ would certainly promote development, and right where we agree is a good place for it. But determined, non-silent people saw to it that the train didn't happen. Please explain to me, and all of us, again why development at 4 Mi & Hy 31 is a good idea, in the face of the shredding of the Land Use Plan, the disruption of anticipated life style (and home values) of Caledonia residents, the difficulty of _any_ semi-big box development to not dump parking lot runoff into the Root River (home to some of the most prized fishing in the Midwest, I kid you not). Be sure to compare that site with a site along Douglas Avenue.
Jay Warner March 31, 2011 at 06:36 AM
Say, I like Fairy tales, too! On the East side of Hy 32 - Douglas Ave., lots of the land is too wet to develop. So we cut them a deal. They scrimp on the green space at the front & sides of the building, and build (and pay maint) on a park out behind it, which the Village would own (and cover for liability). The wet ground becomes a park, which is a suitable use for such land, Walmart gets a store on Hy 32 (which they claim they like). If Walmart wants to "participate" in the related development, they can buy the land on either side as well. Gatlin, too. How to make it happen? Suggest to our Board that they work out a deal on the 40% green space that allows for such a park. Does it _have_ to surround the building, esp. in a commercial area?
Jay Warner March 31, 2011 at 06:47 AM
It takes a house valued at about $300,000 to generate more in Caledonia taxes than the cost of the services for the residents. So yes, 25 new houses of less than $300,000 each will not generate 'spare' tax income. By the same token, the $70,000 generated by the proposed Walmart development will not cover the added police service, much less any added fire protection and other services. And that $70,000 is only if the store's tax revenue is not offset by reduced business at other Caledonia retail locations. This revenue improvement would only happen if the bulk of the store's sales came from people who live outside of Caledonia - who don't want to shop at Walmart in South Milwaukee, or Sturtevant, or elsewhere for that matter. But that is not the customer base that Walmart claims they want - they want people within 3 miles of the site. Maybe that off-hand comment about K-Mart going out was closer to the mark than the speaker wanted.
Jay Warner March 31, 2011 at 06:56 AM
The Walmart PR person repeatedly stated that Walmart does not own the severely neglected remnants of stores. She seemed to feel that this should reduce people's concern and anger. The fact remains that the name on the side of the store says "Sam's Club" and "Walmart" in big letters. How the owner of the building, whoever they may be, treats the area clearly reflects back on the company name; we can't tell who owns it, but we can read brand names. I hope they consider this fact of life next time they contract with someone else to buy or build a store for them. My other concern on this issue is, what would prevent Walmart from selling the building when it suits their business interests? Would the new owner care for it as well as Walmart claims they would?
Jay Warner March 31, 2011 at 07:02 AM
Speaking of facts: The abandoned Walmart store on Hy 11 is 115,000 square feet. The proposed building is 115,157 square feet, plus or minus a couple feet. Yes, the proposal is not for a "big box, or at least not a 'super store.' But any development, including this 'reduced' size, will have trouble keeping runoff out of the Root River.
San March 31, 2011 at 08:55 AM
the FACT is that the unemployment rate in Caledonia is 3.8%, which is considered virtual full employment. Caledonia residents are not clamboring for for jobs. The real job crisis is everywhere else that has gone after all the development. Racine city over 14%. Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant between 6-8%, etc. So when someone tells you that all of Caledonia is demanding "more jobs" here in Caledonia, that is simply not a statement of facts.
San March 31, 2011 at 09:03 AM
particularly for proposed changes related to the Land use Plan, it would be helpful to see a valid environmental impact report, a valid economic impact report, and a valid infrastructure impact report so that we can review, and address issues and concerns that arise when we look at this from a longer-term planning perspective as well.
San March 31, 2011 at 09:36 AM
they also said that the water coming off the parking lot of their stores is suitable as drinking water. The EPA found out differently and they got slapped with big fines for polluting the groundwater at 22 stores in Connecticut as an example. The fact appears to be that they will tell us anything they think they can get away with to convince us this is a good idea, right next to the Root River and putting the watershed at enormous risk, among other issues. Mount Pleasant pays HIGHER taxes, has MUCH higher crime rate, and has a much higher unemployment rate than Caledonia, so why should we be copying them?
Caledonia Confused March 31, 2011 at 01:17 PM
I keep hearing about these trout ponds. Do they raise trout over there?
Heather in Caledonia March 31, 2011 at 01:41 PM
I was part of the planning committee for my neighborhood and I think it was an excellent idea to implement something like this. The plans called for periodic review - I don't remember how often, but I would think they are up for review by now. I think they are also supposed to run through the whole process again from time to time. I asked neighbors about items in question, but they didn't seem too concerned. We only have a handful of people show up to listen to use work. Maybe next time this comes around more people will be interested and provide input.
Heather in Caledonia March 31, 2011 at 01:44 PM
David, I have loosely followed Kmart's corporate woes over the past years and was surprised to see that our store stayed when so many closed nationwide. That store has not had anything invested in it in the 10 years I've lived here. Kmart is hanging on by a thread now that they are owned by Sears. I don't think they would be too hesitant to sell that building if the price was reasonable. Hmmm... I wonder, though. Do they own the whole mall? Who owns Greentree Plaza?
Heather in Caledonia March 31, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Jay, good comments. I agree that there are many ways the plan could be changed to allow it to move to a different location. Is anyone working with Wal-Mart on this from the village? or does the village just sit and wait for Wal-Mart to come up with something? I'm not that familiar with how this works.
Heather in Caledonia March 31, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I moved here around the turn of this century, also, and joined the committee for our neighborhood planning when we were informed via mail that this process was beginning. I went to a meeting, a certain number of people where choosen (had nothing to do with if we were opposed or in favor of development) and the rest were encouraged to come to the meetings to provide input. The input was done after the meetings. As I mentioned before, though, there were only 1-3 people who would come to listen. At the time, Caledonia Patch did not exist to help spread the word on things like this, but I thought it was well publisised by the village.
Heather in Caledonia March 31, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Jay, I'm sorry, but I can't remember where there's an abandoned Walmart store on Hwy 11. What is it next to? I know there's one in Kenosha on 52nd street.
June Hopkins March 31, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Let me start this by saying that the proposed Wal-Mart on Hwy 31 and 4 Mile Road does not impact me directly except for the added traffic congestion which will result on a corner that I travel several times each day. I wish to let the Caledonia Village Trustees know that I am totally against the idea of changing the zoning in that area for the reasons listed below: First, we don’t really need a Wal-Mart at that location. There are enough Wal-Marts within easy driving distance for all of Caledonia. If people feel differently, maybe they should consider relocating to an area closer to Wal-Mart or propose a site nearer their homes. Most of us moved to this area due to the rural benefits abundant to us here. Deer and wildlife are very active along the river and many of us enjoy their presence greatly. We don’t need a Wal-Mart because it will have an extremely damaging effect on local businesses already established. Instead of letting the road become a beacon for fast food, fast loan stores, and gas stations, keep to the Land Use Plan. We don’t need lights all night blocking the night sky, or the added salt and oil residue washing into the trout ponds and river just downhill from the proposed site.
June Hopkins March 31, 2011 at 07:03 PM
We don’t need a Wal-Mart because in the final tally – it won’t contribute the hundreds of thousands referred to. The net for Caledonia is likely to be under $70,000 each year – less than is needed to hire two part-time police officers in an already short-staffed facility. We don’t need a Wal-Mart just because “eventually” Hwy 31 will be four lane and MAY join Hwy 794. Think how great a little bit of country would look as you’re speeding by on the never-ending highway of life. But, most of all, we don’t need a Wal-Mart in that area bordered by Seven Mile on the north, Four Mile on the south, and Hwys 31 and 38 to the east and west. It is unique for its trail system which easily traverses 30 – 40 miles of walking paths and equestrian trails. The homeowners along that old rail right of way have worked many, many years to build a system that is known throughout the Midwest as being a jewel in a world of urban sprawl. The National Pony Club of America recognizes the Racine Pony Club on Hwy 31 as being a very special facility for its access to those trails. The Caledonia Conservancy has put in thousands and thousands of man-hours in maintaining the trails. Please consider holding onto this rural dream instead of allowing noise, air, and light pollution to degrade it.
June Hopkins March 31, 2011 at 07:03 PM
The Caledonia trustees need your help to make the right decision for this area. Please call and let them know that you don’t want them to change the zoning for Wal-Mart. If you know of an area of about 15 – 20 acres that is zoned commercial or is more appropriate for development let them know that as well. Check out the web site for the Village and see for yourself how Caledonia is promoted to others: http://www.caledoniawi.com
Kim Hoover April 05, 2011 at 05:00 PM
So Walmart insists that it needs all of this land? Didn't they also state that this was a small neighborhood store that couldn't be any smaller? I am positive whether the latter was addressed, however according to the Greendale Patch, they are planning a store that is under 100,000 square feet on 76th St. there. There is a meeting in Greendale on Thursday night about the proposal there. Just a thought this land and store size might really not be necessary after all!
Chris Johnson April 14, 2011 at 03:22 PM
It would be great to share the tax burden with a company that has to pay 100 % of their school taxes instead of those who only pay 60% and want to run everything.
Chris Johnson April 14, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Maybe you outsource the jobs in the area to Japan.
patchreader 123 April 14, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Walmart "needs" the land because it always buys more land so that it can lease that land to additional stores and restaurants. Walmart is proposeing its store at 31/4 mi as an anchor for further development, to include a restaurant, small box store and other out-lots. This does two things: 1) allows walmart to choose which stores it wants (i.e., only stores that do not compete with Walmart) to surround its own store; and 2) allows Walmart to pay for the devepment via lease revenue. Go look at the outlots in Sturtevant. Wendy's, high interest loan stores, and various failed businesses.
patchreader 123 April 14, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Walmart Tax Revenue According to Walmart's Attorney, the estimated assessed value of the proposed Walmart store, plus additional establishments (i.e., small box store, restaurant and possible out-lots) is between $10M and $20M. For the sake of an estimate, Tom Lebak, Caledonia Village Administrator, used a $15M assessed value estimate to determine a resulting tax benefit to Caledonia. According to Mr. Lebak, the $15M assessed tax base, using this year's tax rates, would produce $91,350 in taxes to the Village overall based on a mill rate of $6.09/thousand. The number includes the Sewer and Water Utility District and the Lake Michigan Storm Water District. Thus, about $70,335 of that amount would go to the general fund.
patchreader 123 April 14, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Sample Village Expense Caledonia presently employs 31 full time police officers. The 2011 Caledonia budget for police salaries alone (not including overtime or benefits) is about $1.9M. $1.9M/31 police officers = $61,290 per officer.
patchreader 123 April 14, 2011 at 03:50 PM
San April 14, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Caledonia has done very well in terms of employment for our citizens. the unemployment rate in Caledonia is only 3.8%. Economists consider 5-6% to be "full employment" and Caledonia has what appears to be the lowest unemployment rate in the State and far lower than our "development minded" neighbors of Mt. Pleasant and Oak Creek (between 6.8 and 7.2%) or Racine at over 14%. Any businesses that come to Caledonia therefore will have to "import" workers from surrounding communities probably Racine city.
JW April 14, 2011 at 04:34 PM
"Any businesses that come to Caledonia therefore will have to "import" workers from surrounding communities probably Racine city." That is a little bit of a stretch. Like any business anywhere, some people will come from the city the business is located and others will come from surrounding areas. But right now, how many businesses in Racine are staffed with the assistance of, especially, young adults and late teens from Caledonia? A Caledonia Walmart would be an option for more of our teens and young adults starting out where they can work closer to home, which many of them would prefer (saving on the gas, cost, and travel time). There are only so many jobs for their demographic in our area. The jobs will not hurt the area. And the extra travel of people coming to our side of town could even have positive effect on good local businesses and restaurants as more hang around our area. If I drive into Racine to shop Target or Walmart, I am more likely to eat at the restaurants down there than if I am kept on our side of town, where I would more likely eat in our area than chase down to Racine. All some of you want to do is drag out every negative... there are plenty of positives too.
San April 14, 2011 at 04:48 PM
i did not say ALL workers would be imported, but with a 3.8% unemployment rate, there is no doubt that the majority of workers for any new sizable operation would come from outside caledonia.with the most likely source being the high unemployment hub of Racine, probably necessitating some kind of commuting system to get them here... you are entitled to put out what you believe are positives, just like those who are opposed will clearly make the points they see that are detrimental. in balance, it appears the walmart will cost the village residents more money in taxes, add to congestion, slow down the commute for our bedroom community, increase pollution, noise, crime and potentially cause serious harm to the conservancy, the root river and property values for surrounding residents will be negatively impacted. the land use plan took a LOT of factors into account in its final determination and the idea that someone wants to have another fast food restaurant choice or instant access to imported goods from China does not seem to offset all the negatives and cause us to want to support this attempt to disrupt the long-term planning that has been done to protect the community from just such non-conforming uses or ideas of the moment.
patchreader 123 April 17, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Menomonee Falls has similar Walmart concerns regarding proposed same-size store, zoning changes and same developer. http://menomoneefalls.patch.com/articles/potential-walmart-development-receives-cool-reception
Kathy Aschebrock April 17, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Walmart is already the biggest employer in the United States, I wonder if our future is THE UNITED STATES OF WALMART...aka CHINA Work at WALMART, Shop at WALMART, pay Taxes to WALMART...protected by your Union, What Union,there are no Unions in United States of WALMART. Just think they could do away with the currency and just issue every one a WALMART shopping card.
jama March 13, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Bumping this back up/ it was great drama!


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