Judging from the organized opposition and the voices heard most often at recent meetings about Walmart's proposed store in Caledonia, one might think the majority of the community is against the development.
But, there is a quiet groundswell of support for the company to put a store in Caledonia.
Walmart is interested in constructing a 182,000-square-foot Supercenter at the southeast corner of 4 Mile and Green Bay roads. Company officials have submitted rezoning and land use amendment applications to bring the various parcels of land there into consistent zoning designations that would clear the way for the store.
Leading the charge against Walmart's plan is Katie Tiderman who says there are petitions being circulated by several people in neighborhoods throughout the village.
"I don't know how many signatures we've collected because petitions are still being circulated," she said.
Tiderman told Patch it isn't Walmart, specifically, she opposes, though she does admit to not liking the company's business model.
"I don't want any type of big box store going in there," she said. "I don't want Kohl's, Target or Sendik's, either, because they're not appropriate for that site."
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Location, location, location
Lack of infrastructure—including roads for the increased traffic—are part of what Tiderman uses to support her position. She also says despite perceived inconsistencies in the village's land use plan and the county's overlay plan, the intent for large-scale retail development was never part of any plan for that area.
"Even when we thought the (KRM commuter) train was coming through there, this area wasn't designed to host one large retailer," she said. "It was meant as a village center with a mix of development, including perhaps a smaller scale manufacturer, some retail and even some higher density residential."
Mark Balwinski, however, thinks this is somewhat much ado about nothing. He admits the targeted location is less than ideal, but he points to the benefits of an increased tax base to help diffuse the costs of village services as too big to ignore.
He thinks there are pro-Walmart signatures being collected, and while he is a supporter of the project in general, he is not circulating any himself.
"No one likes their property taxes going up, but how else can Caledonia afford the services residents need and demand?" he said. "Walmart will generate a significant amount of property taxes and business attracts business. We need it here."
Balwinski thinks Walmart would have been better off—and so would residents and area shoppers—buying the land across the street from the We Energies plant on Highway 32.
"The people across the street from the plant have contaminated wells and they'll never be able to sell," he explained. "Walmart could have been the hero and come in, bought those properties and still been in a great location to serve the northside of the county as well as areas of Oak Creek and Franklin."
Changing the neighborhood
Tiderman also argues that having a Walmart at 4-Mile and Green Bay will irrevocably change the neighborhood, but Balwinski says the area hasn't been rural and quiet for a long time because of its proximity to the Douglas Avenue corridor.
"There's businesses on both sides of the street, the post office and a Speedway open 24 hours a day in the immediate vicinity," Balwinski said. "The truth of the matter is that Caledonia can't afford to keep pushing business development away if we're going to grow as a community."
Tiderman stresses she isn't opposed to growth, but she wants the Village Board to be stewards of growing responsibly.
"I'm not necessarily anti-Walmart, but I am advocating for responsible growth, and that means clearly identifying our commercial areas and courting the appropriate businesses," she said. "Walmart is not right for that area."