What a month! I’m just about to settle down to watch spring arrive, when Wal-Mart proposes to build a “small” store near Highway 31 and 4 Mile Road, on a parcel zoned “low density residential.” This would dramatically change Caledonia. People filled a Board meeting, a few hundred people came to an informational meeting hosted by Wal-Mart, an information filled web site appeared, a Facebook page aired opinions, and Caledoniapatch.com posted long discussions. Plus a write-in effort appeared.
Putting on my “I love Caledonia” hat, I see two major points of issue, the location Wal-Mart proposes, and the need for tax revenue. Unless you like high drama confrontations (including the possibility of losing everything), we need to find a lower stress solution.
The proposed development location
The site fits Wal-Mart’s business criteria; does it fit our community goals? No. The site is clearly zoned low density residential in the Village of Caledonia Land Use Plan, and the area on the map is allowed no non-residential, commercial uses. Discarding the zoning, which a change from low density residential to commercial would do, tells every homeowner in Caledonia that their home and neighborhood can be upended whenever a corporation decides. Without that zoning, our home values are not “safe.” We each need security in our homes, for the next 10 to 30 years.
Village tax revenue
Village revenues (mostly taxes) have been restricted in years past, and we all know that state contributions to Caledonia Village are declining, so expect a smaller budget for next year. A call to “reduce waste,” and “find efficiencies,” won’t be enough. The Village Board must reduce services, and it will hurt.
Wal-Mart is a potential revenue source. At least two other recent proposals for development have been discussed recently, so Wal-Mart is not the only option. For each possible development, we, and the Village Board must ask if the revenue (tax income) is worth more than the effects of the changes we’ll have to make, and we have to think on a 30-year timeframe. Fiscal facts: The 2011 budget for Village operations is $10.7 million. The annual tax revenue for the Village expected from Wal-Mart is about $70,000 per year.
Can we keep Caledonia “rural” and have development? I say yes!
Wal-Mart wants 19 acres (a square of land 910 feet on a side), with 40% green space, where the present owners are willing to sell. It must be about half way between Sturtevant and South Milwaukee, on a 'trunk' road. The broker said he did not find a site along Douglas Avenue, where it is already zoned commercial. The west side of Douglas has a railroad track; the east side open areas have unbuildable wetlands.
Wal-Mart claims they are flexible. Could they make a park on the unbuildable land and count that as the 40% green space? Could they adjust the shape of the lot and grow into our commercial corridor instead of tearing apart our residences? Speaking of growing, all our yards are sprouting now. If the Wal-Mart people visited, perhaps they would see why we value our community so highly, and how they could fit into it.
I am convinced that our connection with developers is not simply to roll over and take whatever they give us. It is, after all, our community. What are some ways that Wal-Mart and we get what we all need? If we shred the Land Use Plan, every homeowner in Caledonia will lose.
 LAND USE PLAN MAP TABLE, pg. 22, 31, doc: 2B_Text_111306.pdf