Is there a way to make Wal-Mart viable in Caledonia?

Columnist, Jay Warner, says yes.

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.[1]  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. 


[1] LAND USE PLAN MAP TABLE, pg. 22, 31, doc: 2B_Text_111306.pdf

San April 25, 2011 at 06:54 PM
why is it that no one answers the question about the COST to the Village budget of this kind of development being HIGHER than the revenues they would pay to the Village? Do we as a community want to pay HIGHER taxes to subsidize Walmart and fast food jungles? This does not solve the budget crisis, but makes it worse. And it has other downsides that are easily seen if one takes the time to actually review the numerous studies that show the impact of this kind of development. The fact that it has occurred all over the country is not a justification when one sees the results elsewhere being higher tax rates, lower quality of life.. And we have the Root River watershed to worry about at the Highway 31 and 4 mile intersection..... Highway 31 is a good NON CONGESTED way for our BEDROOM community to effectively deliver our citizens to their jobs quickly. If we CONGEST it then we harm the value of the bedroom community long term.
patchreader 123 April 25, 2011 at 07:18 PM
san: good point. muskego residents had similar concerns before the walmart that opened there see below quotes from related RJT blogs: "I'm dreading the opening. My drive from my house just south on Moorland Rd. of Janesville to the freeway went from 5-7 minutes to upwards of 10-15 in the morning with the additions of the roundabouts and that stoplight at Wal-Mart/GE. I assume it will go to upwards of 15- 20 very soon. Currently the stoplight at that intersection changes even when there are people in the right turn lane, not in need of a green light to go, something that hopefully they adjust as soon as possible when it's in business. Having a stoplight every 500 yards is kind of ridiculous when the road's speed limit is posted at 50mph." "The city plan for 2020 was to protect the integrity of the outdoors integrated with quick access to urban life. Wal Mart takes the city off the path. How could our elected officials lose sight of how beautiful Muskego was -- and import an urban environment that conflicts with its own strategic goals? Stay tuned for lots of concrete and traffic, fewer trees and higher crime." i could be wrong, but i think the muskego mill rate is about $16.00/1000 (year 2010), not including sewer.
ms April 26, 2011 at 02:00 AM
san, I have not decided if a shopping center is a benefit or not yet, or if the proposed locatioon is right. I try to find studies based on facts to help my decision. I am trying to make an economical decision that is best for Caledonia. The diffusion study seems to show that there would only be a modest gain in jobs. Makes sense to me, the shoppers have not increased so to keep costs the same the number of workers needs to be about the same. I think the stores around hwy 11 & 31 would be the most affected by this. It seemed to indicate that local business not in direct competition would see an increase in business. Again, seems right. If people stay to shop the big box, they may frequent the small stores. I am undecided how it would affect K-Mart. Would there be added traffic or not. They do offer some things the Wal-Mart does not. So many questions still to be answered.
San April 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM
you make good points. the diffusion study makes it clear that Walmart places its stores to not cannibalize more than 1% from their other nearby stores. That would imply that their store near 11 and 31 would see very little cannibalization, and likely similar for other stores in that vicinity as well. there are OTHER studies however that show that when a walmart moves into an area, that within 1-2 years that area loses on average round 4 small and 1 medium local business. These studies would imply that stores in the immediate "zone of influence of 3-5 miles would be negatively affected. Those same studies show that there is a short term gain of jobs as Walmart comes in, but over 4-5 years this becomes flattened out again as the other businesses affected shed jobs. Because Caledonia already has such a low unemployment rate compared to anywhere close by, most of the jobs that Walmart "creates" would go to people from outside Caledonia but likely if local businesses close or scale back over a few years time, they would lose jobs for Caledonia residents. There are yet OTHER studies which show that shopping centers and fast food cost local governments more than they bring in to the Village due to increased costs for public safety (police) and road maintenance due to stress due to high traffic counts. Thus, these are considered "negataive" for fixing budget deficits and there are other types of development that are positive.
San April 26, 2011 at 01:41 PM
After your comment about "looking to Burlington" i was intrigued to see the following article in the journal times today: http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/article_566ecd26-6f73-11e0-9fb2-001cc4c002e0.html About how Burlington, to deal with a budget shortfall, is examining the future of maintaining its own police department or not....So all is not well in terms of the budget in "chocolate-ville" either......even though they have a substantially higher "MIL RATE" than Caledonia has...


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