City Beat: Councilman says Wal-Mart seeks sites for 6 Neighborhood Markets
Councilman Scott Bailes was one of two council members voting against a pair of bills to pave the way for a Walmart Neighborhood Market at the southwest corner of Republic Road and Farm Road 135/Golden Avenue.
The property owner, First Team Ventures LLC, was seeking annexation of roughly 11 acres at the site and requesting rezoning to a retail district.
Bailes said he’s concerned about the impact the stores could have on locally owned businesses, and he feared it would open the door to additional development by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Based on conversations between Wal-Mart officials and city staff, Bailes said there are six sites in town Wal-Mart may develop into urban markets.
Neighbors who have opposed plans for a Walmart near the intersection of East Sunshine Street and South Blackman Road for nearly 20 years should prepare for another dog fight, he said, because the Bentonville, Ark.-based global retailer has indicated plans to build a Neighborhood Market at the site. City building officials said they have no such plans on record.
Bailes said he would oppose any bills tied to the construction of additional Wal-Mart stores in Springfield.
“My real fear is that at some point there will be no local pharmacies in Springfield, no local optometrists, no local insurance providers and no local auto parts stores or auto mechanics,” Bailes said after the meeting.
Bailes balanced the increased sales tax figures cited from the store planned for West Republic Road against his concern that local jobs could be lost. “We’re talking about redistributing the same money,” he told council. “It’s not as if 20,000 new people are coming to town.” Councilman Tom Bieker joined Bailes in his opposition to the plans, but council approved the annexation and rezoning bills by a 7-2 vote.
Mayor Jim O’Neal said he didn’t feel the city should stand in the way of development, and he didn’t think it was fair to suggest that such plans could cause an overall job loss.
The city estimates the costs of delivering services such as city Police and Fire protection to the annexed land would amount to $24,145 after five years, and the revenues generated would exceed $156,000.
Calls to Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Morales were not returned by deadline. Morales previously told the Springfield Business Journal that Wal-Mart planned to hire 90 people for the $1.7 million, 42,000-square-foot market at the Republic Road site. He said there was no target opening date.
Chris Straw, director of Building Development Services, confirmed Wal-Mart officials had discussions with city staff, and he said as of July 12 Wal-Mart had filed development plans for only two sites.
Besides the East Sunshine location, Bailes said he believed Wal-Mart also was targeting the West Bypass and Mt. Vernon intersection for development. He did not know where the other two sites might be located.
Westport Woods Council overwhelmingly approved a pair of bills giving the green light to a 46-unit apartment project near Westport Elementary despite the protest of a dozen neighbors who spoke against the plans at a June 27 public hearing. Votes were 8-1.
Affordable Homes Development, owned by Joe and Marie Carmichael, plans to build Westport Woods Apartments and lease to tenants earning between 60 percent and 80 percent of Greene County’s median income. The couple said at the public hearing that prospective tenants would undergo background checks.
Residents expressed traffic concerns from the apartments, coupled with the expansion of Westport Elementary as it transitions into a K–8 school. They also cited children’s safety and falling property values in their opposition.
Council approved the zoning change of the 6.2 acres of mostly wooded land north of Westport Park to a low-density multifamily residential district from single-family residential and highway commercial.
“The concerns that people have about the residents that would live there are unfounded. These are the working poor, and just like everyone else, they are entitled to decent housing,” said Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky, noting the need for affordable housing in Springfield outweighed the issues cited by residents.
Councilman Nick Ibarra cast the lone votes against the plans. He said he was worried that the apartments could add to what already was becoming an overcrowded school in Westport.
Several council members said they agreed with residents that Hilton Street west of the park needed to be widened and that should become a city priority.[[In-content Ad]]