Following the news that Walmart may build a store in Caledonia, anti-Walmart signs have been cropping up along North Green Bay and 4 Mile roads.
In September, Walmart announced that it would like to build a 24-hour general merchandise store on the southeast corner of that intersection. Company officials say the store will create 300 jobs, most of which are expected to be full-time. They haven’t presented any plans to the Village Board. However, they plan to host an informational meeting next week.
Since the announcement, residents have also been passing out fliers to organize a group opposing the project, more than 140 people have joined a Facebook group called “No Walmart In Rural Caledonia,” and a local resident is hosting an informational/strategy meeting to present a unified opposition to Walmart on Saturday.
“Between the noise pollution, being open 24 hours a day, the impact on our residential area — I think it’s going to destroy our neighborhood."
Katie Tiderman, a real estate agent who lives on North Green Bay Road, said she decided to organize the meeting after she went door to door passing out fliers to drum up opposition to the project.
“Everyone that I’ve talk to is strongly against it and we want to present a united front against it,” Tiderman said. “Between the noise pollution, being open 24 hours a day, the impact on our residential area — I think it’s going to destroy our neighborhood. I also don’t think the size of our community will support that store.”
But the opposition may have some challenges to overcome because a Walmart would be allowed on that site under the village's land-use plan, which officials use to determine what kind of development should go where in Caledonia.
Mark Janiuk, the village administrator, said the land-use plan would allow for a grocery store to be built on the property as a permitted use. However, the land is currently zoned industrial and residential. So, if the project were to move forward, the property would need to be rezoned.
“Ultimately, the Village Board needs to decide whether they want to rezone the property, but the decision has really already been made in the land-use plan,” Janiuk said. “However, if the board doesn’t rezone the property and Walmart should happen to take this to court, the courts are going to be more receptive to Walmart because the village has already adopted that as an intended use in their land-use plan.”
This scenario is different than the property Walmart officials had considered on 4 Mile Road and Highway 31 in 2011 because the land-use plan designated the property as residential, which meant the land-use plan and the zoning for the property would have had to be changed for the project to move forward.
"If the (Village) Board doesn’t rezone the property and Walmart should happen to take this to court, the courts are going to be more receptive to Walmart."
The village has also studied the impact of different types of development in Caledonia.
In September 2011, the board hired Ehlers, a consulting firm, to analyze what types of developments would be suitable for the village and how much tax revenue would needed to be generated to support the operation of the village.
The study, which was presented in November, specifically looked at how commercial development would impact the village, which they said would be “relatively minor.”
However, according to the study:
Dependent upon whether the commercial development is “big box” or traditional “strip” commercial, will determine the impact. Big box type development typically will have greater draw on policing and emergency responses due to patronage volume.
Tiderman said she has looked at the land-use plan and the zoning map, and finds the plan confusing.
“On page 27 of the land-use overview states this Village Center Area allows for commercial and grocery," she said. “They also talk about percentages dedicated to different uses within that area. Again, I don’t see a Supercenter working within that plan.”
Tiderman plans on having a meeting to discuss Walmart at 6 p.m. Saturday at her home.
Walmart will host a neighborhood meeting to present the project and seek citizen input from 6 to 7:30 pm Oct. 17 at the North Park School, 4748 Elizabeth St., in the gymnasium.
An official from Walmart did not immediately return a phone call for this story.