Roseville Wal-Mart plan irks some

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 4, 2012 - 9:50 PM

Angry residents say the city didn't give enough notice about the proposal.

Some Roseville residents claim they have had little say about the prospect that Wal-Mart could soon get permission to build a store in the city, and they aren't happy.

Only a handful of residents voiced their displeasure at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting, but they say there would be an even louder outcry if more people were aware of plans.

A few who spoke felt Roseville was pulling a fast one because the city didn't announce plans for the store until just days before the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve plans for the preliminary plat. The Arkansas-based retailer wants to build a 160,000-square-foot retail center on forlorn property at County Road C and Cleveland Avenue.

"How long has the city known Wal-Mart would be making a proposal, and why not share this information sooner?" asked Megan Dushin, a resident who serves on the city's Civic Engagement Task Force. "Disappointing."

The City Council will discuss the plan at its Feb. 27 meeting.

Along with a Wal-Mart, the plan approved Wednesday will allow the site just east of Interstate 35W to contain two other smaller shops, businesses or restaurants. It also calls for the city to give up a small piece of city-owned land near a roundabout at Twin Lakes Parkway and Mount Ridge Road.

A city staff report said plans for the big-box store on the 14-acre parcel fit Roseville's master plan for the Twin Lakes Business Park, advance the city's goals of redeveloping dilapidated properties and do not conflict with the city's Comprehensive Plan.

The report said the master plan expresses a preference for "support" retail uses, such as dry cleaners, personal banking offices and convenience shops. While the proposed development is larger than the master plan preferred, it does not exclude larger developments such as Wal-Mart, which tend to contain pharmacies, photo labs, convenience items and offerings "that are consistent and support that kind of retail," said Brian Lloyd, associate city planner.

Plan called 'shallow'

Resident Gary Gruefenberg objected, and said that the staff did not properly vet the project, that it does not follow the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, and that the report was done in a "shallow and facile way."

"We deserve more than a superficial statement that it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan," he said. "To hear the Comprehensive Plan is not relevant makes me wonder if all involvement of citizens is meaningless and pure window dressing. I want a more thorough review of the Comprehensive Plan. There is no analysis here."

Dan Boerigter, the commission's acting chair who voted in favor of the plan, said it was ludicrous to say that residents didn't have a voice in the decision.

"We have talked about Twin Lakes for years," he said. "They had a chance to weigh in. If they had attended past meetings, they would know that retail would be allowed."

Vote wasn't unanimous

But opponents did get sympathy from Peter Strohmeier, who cast the lone dissenting vote.

"The community was caught off guard; so was I," he said. "This is one more way to add to frustration that they don't have a role in government. I am disappointed in that"

In voting for the project, commission member Michael Boguszewski acknowledged the public's fears about increased traffic, crime and aesthetic appeal, but since the development meets zoning requirements it's not the city's role to fetter business.

"I don't see Wal-Mart being equivalent to a nuclear waste plant," he said. "... If there is going to be a Wal-Mart, there is no better spot for it."

The city has been trying to develop the property, which is littered with weeds and dilapidated buildings, for nearly 30 years, said City Planner Thomas Paschke.

"It's about time we do something out there," said commission member Jeff Gisslequist in voting yes.

Paschke said residents can still submit comments directly to City Council members or send them to City Hall.

Wal-Mart has five other stores within a 10-mile radius of the proposed Roseville store, including St. Anthony, Vadnais Heights and on University Avenue in St. Paul. A Wal-Mart Supercenter is being built in Brooklyn Center at the former Brookdale Shopping Center site.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib

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