The overall sentiment at the Walmart land use work group meeting Wednesday night was that residents don't want the retail giant making the village its home.
But, residents also asked for a big box ordinance that would limit the areas where those stores can be built and also offered ideas for what they would like to see in Caledonia's future.
Walmart has submitted rezoning and land use plan amendment applications for the farm field at 4-Mile and Green Bay Roads - referred to as the VCM (Village Center Metra) - so the company can build a 182,000 square foot supercenter. Resident opposition has been fierce with most people pointing out that the site is not appropriate.
To help reconcile inconsistencies in the zoning and the land use plans, Village Administrator Mark Janiuk and Attorney Elaine Ekes suggested the original neighborhood planning group be brought back together - with Plan Commission members - to plan for the future of that site.
Village President Bob Bradley said several times that the group is focusing on rezoning and not on Walmart, but clearly residents had the proposed store in mind as they read prepared statements.
Nancy Sanders doesn't think big box retail has any place in Caledonia because of the ugly shells they leave behind if they close. She passed out copies to committee members of news articles to bolster her stance.
"I think this group should consider a no big box ordinance because we don’t need this type of business in this area," she said. "Too many build and then close, leaving ugly buildings that will bring down the neighborhood."
Other residents, like Dottie McDonald and Linda Meredith talked about their vision for that corner. McDonald sees it perhaps as the new home for a new village hall while Meredith envisions it as a premier retail destination much like downtown Greendale.
"I see a VCM tastefully decorated with trees, flowers, and grass that would attract people from all over with a visitors’ center highlighting our historical sites," she said. "We could become gathering place for groups like in Greendale where they have busloads of people arriving to visit those businesses."
After Bradley closed the public comment portion of the meeting, comments from committee members during discussion mirrored those of residents.
Village Administrator Mark Janiuk pointed out that 85 percent of village services are paid for with property taxes, and that the Plan Commission and the Village Board need to decide if they want a more balanced approach to the tax levy.
"Residential development creates more needs so tax rates will have to go up," he said. "Unless you find ways to bring in commercial and industrial development, then you’re relying on residential taxes that will keep going up. Those are the consequences of choices you’ve made in the past and what this group has to look at as well."
Janiuk also cautioned residents and committee members about what they want given the economic realities of the area.
"You can say you want certain development in a certain way but there's no guarantee it will happen because it's driven by market forces," he said. "You can say you want Mom & Pop stores, but take a look at what you’ve had develop along Douglas Avenue ... mainly name-brand stores and very few Mom & Pop stores since you developed the plan."
The meeting adjourned after there was consensus for committee members to take what they'd learned and think it all over before coming back together on May 15 to possibly make a decision on a recommendation for the Planning Commission.
If the work group does vote on a recommendation at their next meeting, their decision would move to the Planning Commission for consideration at that group's May 29 meeting.
The Village Board would then hear the matter perhaps as early as the regular board meeting on June 3 and schedule the required public hearing for sometime in early July and have a final decision by the end of July.