The Blaine City Council has approved preliminary plans for Wal-Mart to build a 24-hour superstore near the corner of Ball Road and Lexington Avenue.
Council chambers were packed for the session last Thursday on the 182,000-square-foot store. Residents from the Belmont Acres neighborhood, across the street from the site, worried that the store will increase traffic, lower property values and disturb the neighborhood's peace. Attorney Josh Brekken, speaking on behalf of a grass-roots neighborhood group, said that approving the development would ignore the voice of constituents.
During the meeting, the council made some modifications, agreeing to move Ball Road 15 feet to the north and requiring Wal-Mart to extend solid fencing around the store, which would provide a buffer between it and the neighborhood.
Martin Harstad, who owns the land where the store will be built, agreed to buy three corner houses from homeowners whose land will be needed for a holding pond.
The new store will be on a 29-acre lot near the intersection of Interstate 35W and Lexington. All traffic will have access to the store on two-lane Ball Road. Traffic is expected to increase from 3,000 vehicle trips a day to 14,000, according to projections. Wal-Mart representatives have said the company is willing to spend more than $2 million on road improvements.
The store will include a full line of groceries in addition to general merchandise. Although there is another Wal-Mart in the nearby The Village of Blaine shopping center, the company is building the new store because it is restricted from selling a full line of groceries at that 140,000 square-foot store. There is also a Cub Foods in The Village. Wal-Mart previously said it would likely close The Village Wal-Mart if a new store is built.
Not all residents were placated by the council's actions. Some said they didn't have the chance to fully express their views; Mayor Tom Ryan stopped taking public comments after three residents had spoken. Ryan had said that the debate has been going on for a year and a half, and that "we are not going to take a lot of input on this."
"The worst part was not being able to have time to speak," said Cathy Harrison, a nearby resident. "We fully expected that Wal-Mart was going to be approved, but we did not expect to not have a say in the conditional-use permit."
A main point of contention was Wal-Mart's hours. Harrison said the community was grateful that council members Dick Swanson and Wes Hovland advocated for their request to limit store and delivery hours to 5 a.m. to midnight. However, the council attorney said there wasn't a legitimate reason to restrict this Wal-Mart when other businesses across the street were open 24 hours. The motion to limit the hours did not pass.
After that, the council voted 5-2 to grant a conditional use permit for the Wal-Mart, with Swanson and Hovland casting the no votes. The council earlier had voted 7-0 to approve a preliminary plat request to subdivide property along Ball Road for the proposed store.
Meanwhile, Harrison said community members are currently looking into an appeal. "Twenty-four hours a day won't work for us — and they'll find out."
Sarah Barchus is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.