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Archive for Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Wal-Mart decision ‘is just about zoning’

October 22, 2002

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If a Wal-Mart Supercenter is to become reality at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, it will have to overcome a lot of opposition: from city planning staffers, Downtown Lawrence Inc., Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and more than 400 residents of northwest Lawrence.

But none of those foes will be allowed to disparage Wal-Mart itself on Wednesday when the matter goes before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

During a study session Monday, commissioners said they were committed to deciding the issue on the basis of its land-use merits the only criteria they have authority to decide and not on the qualities of the company that will use the land.

"This is not about Wal-Mart," Planning Director Linda Finger said. "This is just about zoning and development of a large retail store."

As proposed, the store would occupy 190,000 square feet plus another 9,000 square feet for an outdoor garden center at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. The Wal-Mart would include a full-service grocery store and eventually be open 24 hours a day.











Planning staffers late last week issued a report recommending denial of rezoning and a development plan for the store. They said the proposal didn't fit in with nearby stores and that it would, along with those stores, raise the total commercial acreage at the intersection to nearly double what was recommended in Horizon 2020, the city-county long-range plan.

"The proposed building and use of this size are more appropriate at the intersection of two state/federal highways," staffers said in the report.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposal during its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Developers disagree. Todd Thompson, a Lawrence attorney representing the project, said in a letter the project is so large because it includes "greenspace buffering on all four corners, and for an improved traffic pattern."

No consensus emerged from Monday's meeting. Commissioners did ask planning staffers about the size of the proposed store, along with its effects on traffic, downtown businesses and nearby Free State High School.

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