Walmart was the trigger, Caledonia officials acknowledge, but the village must review the land use plan for where the big box wants to build.
The land at 4 Mile and Green Bay roads is zoned for residential and light manufacturing. But the land use overlay plan identifies it for a village center, with a mix of high- and medium-density residential and smaller-scale retail, a leftover from when the KRM commuter rail was expected to stop in the area.
Walmart has submitted a request for the village to rezone the land to commercial, and has applied for a land use amendment to clear the way for a 182,000-square-foot supercenter.
The discrepancy between the land use plan and zoning has Walmart’s applications on hold, and forced the village to address the problem.
“We have to separate Walmart from opening up the land use plan,” said Plan Commission member Bill Folk. “Yes, they brought up the conflict, but there is a conflict, and it needs to be addressed.
But that’s where residents opposed to putting a big box store on the site question the process.
“To say we are meeting now in the interest of the community; that Walmart triggered the need. Well, foresight, time and change should have been the trigger,” wrote Katie Tiderman, a vocal Walmart opponent, in an email to Patch. “This is all about Walmart.”
Looking at the discrepancy is a land use plan work group made up largely of the same people who developed the existing plan. The group includes residents, business owners, past and present Plan Commission members and an attorney who represents Walmart. The group was put together March 13 and is slated to start work April 3.
Village Administrator Mark Janiuk wants the group to focus on the best use of the land, because what was planned—the village center—isn’t the reality any longer.
“KRM is not coming, the condo market has collapsed, and there are new facts on the ground people have to consider when planning for the future,” he said.
The group has a lot of control over developing a new vision. Members could recommend rezoning to commercial, but not for a big box, Janiuk said, and then Walmart would not get permission to build.
“The question becomes, is a 7-11 at that corner a better asset than Walmart?” Janiuk said. “Residents have to come to grips with these questions.”
He also said property owners have the right to sell to a developer as a benefit to themselves and the village.
“The land owner should have the opportunity to develop and not have their property stay a vacant field forever,” he said.
Tiderman gets it, she said, but wondered what then would prevent a landowner from selling to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections so it could build a prison next to a school.
“I know that’s extreme, but it’s in the same idea,” she said. “Communities, residents, really, should have the right to say what kind of development they want in their neighborhood.”
Tiderman said she isn’t against all development in the area, just the nature of big box stores at that particular location. She said she could support an expansion of CalStar, a manufacturing facility that sits east of where Walmart wants to build.
“CalStar expanding makes sense because they do all their business inside the building and have definite hours of operation,” she stated. “They’re good neighbors. I’d be fine if they wanted to expand.”