Wal-Mart gets thumbs-down from Chanhassen Planning Commission

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2011 - 2:34 PM

But the chain said it can answer the city's questions and still move ahead with building a store that neighbors and shoppers will accept and appreciate.

Wal-Mart got the equivalent of a rejection letter from the Chanhassen Planning Commission last week, but the huge national firm said it does not intend to abandon plans to build a new retail store in the southwestern metro community.

The commission voted 7-0 against recommending that the City Council approve the "concept plan" for the store, proposed for a 14-acre site at the southwest corner of Hwy. 5 and Powers Boulevard.

The vote came at the end of a public hearing attended by an overflow crowd that spilled into two adjoining rooms in City Hall.

Opponents said the store would add too much traffic to the already-busy intersection. They said it would hurt small local businesses and cause safety problems that would require additional policing. And they contended that the store is not needed because there's already a Wal-Mart about 7 miles away in Eden Prairie. They've gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Chanhassen project.

Supporters of a new store have said that it would create hundreds of jobs, add revenue to the tax base and improve an under-utilized property.

Wal-Mart's plan includes demolishing a large building at the site at 1000 Park Road. It has been vacant for the past several years.

The technical issue before the commission was whether to recommend rezoning the property from industrial office to planned-unit development status, said Kate Aanenson, the city's community development director. Getting approval of a concept plan essentially allows the company to receive direction from the Planning Commission and the city before incurring the expense of developing a more detailed proposal.

A city staff report did not make a recommendation one way or another, but said that Wal-Mart has not adequately addressed specific issues about traffic, parking and encroachment of the 120,000-square-foot building on a nearby wetland.

The Planning Commission vote against the concept plan was advisory, and the issue now goes to the Chanhassen City Council for further discussion on Nov. 28.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Lisa Nelson said that the public hearing was the first opportunity for the company to hear from neighbors and shoppers, and that the public feedback was helpful.

"When we go into a community it's not a short-term deal, it's a long-term relationship," she said. "We can meet and exceed the city's codes and the neighbors' expectations for a Wal-Mart store in Chanhassen," she said.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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