Caledonia's 2006 land-use plan and its 2035 comprehensive plan don't lay out the same vision for development in the city, and those inconsistencies have thrown a roadblock in front of Walmart's proposed store.
The discrepancies between the two plans need to be addressed before the Walmart store could be considered. Members of the Caledonia Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to start working on the problem.
This may include bringing in a planner, and forming a committee to review the design discussions.
The decision came after a discussion about how best to proceed now that Walmart has submitted both a rezoning application and a land use amendment for the land at the southeast corner of 4-Mile and North Green Bay roads. Walmart is interested in building a 180,000-square-foot supercenter similar to the store on Durand Avenue in Mount Pleasant. The property would also include three commercial out-lots.
The looming problem is that the land-use plan and comprehensive plan don’t jive with respect to the properties Walmart wants to build on, said Village Attorney Elaine Ekes. Walmart wants the village to remedy the problem, but a group opposed to Walmart’s building location has repeatedly said it doesn't believe the location is consistent with the land use plan.
“There is a conundrum,” Ekes said. “At least with respect to this village center (the zoning designation for the parcels)...clearly the commercial request in front of you doesn’t match the 2035 plan. I don’t know if that was intentional. I looked through the minutes trying to determine whether the intention was to specifically dismiss the concept of mixed use commercial, but I don’t know."
Lisa Nelson, a corporate affairs official from Walmart, said the Village needs to clarify its plans.
“We assume there will be opportunities to have discussions about the potential to diversify their tax base and we want to be part of that discussion,” Nelson said. “But we also understand the need to have a vision for that area.
“With many communities needing to have a diversified tax base we believe we can be part of the solution. We want to be a part of this community.”
Elaine Radwanski, member of the Planning Commission wants the neighbors involved in the process.
“I think at the very least that we have to address the Village Center and get the neighbors talking and looking at that piece of property, and re-invision what it should be,” Radwanski said. “I don’t think this Commission or Village Board has that right to impose that vision on the neighborhood.”
Howard Stacey, a Caledonia resident who spoke during the public comment period, told the Planning Commission that state law doesn’t mandate consistency.
"Planning goes from the bottom up, not the top down," he said. "There are no wills or shalls."
With the decision made to have a broader discussion, the Planning Commission hasn’t hammered out all of the details on how they want to proceed until they get an understanding of how much it will cost the village.
Village staff will inventory the inconsistencies between the two plans while also presenting a more formalized plan as to how they’ll reconcile the two documents.