A big-box debate is kicking up some dust in the southwestern metro community of Chanhassen.

Wal-Mart has proposed to build a 120,000-square-foot retail store on a 14-acre site at the southwest corner of Hwy. 5 and Powers Boulevard, and the plan has spurred a petition drive against the project.

Those on all sides of the issue can attend a 7 p.m. public hearing on Tuesday before the Chanhassen Planning Commission at City Hall, 7700 market Blvd.

The property at 1000 Park Road already contains a large building, built in 1986 and vacant for the past several years.

It would be torn down if Wal-Mart gets the green light to proceed, said Kate Aanenson, the city's community development director. "What they're doing first is seeing whether the city would be receptive to rezoning this piece of property," she said.

The issue will be whether to rezone the property from industrial office to planned unit development status, she said.

Although the proposal is at the "concept" phase, some citizens are speaking out against the store and have organized an online petition drive. It asks Chanhassen City Council members to scuttle the project, saying that Wal-Mart would add too much traffic to an already-busy intersection, negatively affect "local home-grown businesses" in Chanhassen, and cause safety concerns requiring additional police activity.

Others have said that a Wal-Mart would ruin the small-town feeling of Chanhassen, and that the store isn't needed because there's already a Wal-Mart in Eden Prairie near Eden Prairie Mall, about seven miles away. Target has stores in both communities.

Supporters of a new Wal-Mart have said that the store would create hundreds of jobs for the community, add valuable revenue to the tax base, and make good use of an under-utilized property.

The potential Wal-Mart site is located across Powers Boulevard from Ridgeview Chanhassen Clinic and near a number of other businesses.

Feedback at city hall

Chanhassen Mayor Tom Furlong said he has received numerous calls and e-mails about the proposed store, but is keeping an open mind and wants to hear more from city staff, citizens and Wal-Mart representatives at the public hearing.

"It has been a while since we've had a project of this size come through," Furlong said. "I think that's a credit to our area and our city, that in an economy where very little is happening in terms of new retail development, that businesses are looking to Chanhassen as one of the places that they're looking to expand."

Wal-Mart signed a purchase agreement to buy 26.5 acres in the nearby city of Carver in October 2007, but decided against building a store there the following spring.

If approved by the city's Planning Commission, the Chanhassen project would go to the City Council for discussion and possible action on Nov. 28.

Aanenson said that if the city approves the rezoning, Wal-Mart would then have to return with a more detailed final proposal that would go through the same process of city review and discussion.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388