- Read the letter the city has sent to theplantiffs in the Wal-Mart suit (.pdf)
- City, Wal-Mart make no move to settle (04-07-07)
- Wal-Martissue could be revisited (04-04-07)
- Citydiscussion turns to Wal-Mart (03-15-07)
- Wal-Martback, with bigger request (10-28-06)
- Wal-Martquestion up for city approval (10-23-06)
City commissioners want to test the waters on a possible settlement of a lawsuit over a proposed Wal-Mart store at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
Commissioners confirmed Thursday that the city sent a letter to attorneys representing Wal-Mart and the property owners of the proposed site.
The letter asks Wal-Mart and the property owners to seek a continuance of the lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial Monday. Mayor Sue Hack said the continuance would provide time to schedule a Wal-Mart discussion on the city's May 1 agenda.
It would be the first chance for the City Commission to have a public discussion since Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever joined the City Commission following the April 3 elections. Chestnut and Dever replaced Commissioners Mike Rundle and David Schauner, who made up two-thirds of a majority that opposed the most recent plan to build a Wal-Mart at the site.
"The new commission should be given the opportunity to ask questions and hear comments," Hack said.
Hack said the May 1 agenda item would not include consideration of a specific development plan. Instead, it would be an opportunity for the city and the developer to openly discuss issues surrounding the project.
It is not known whether Wal-Mart owners will agree to seek a continuance, Hack said.
"I don't know what their thoughts will be," Hack said of the plaintiffs. "I know there is a lot of mistrust on both sides."
Bill Newsome, a member of the 6Wak group that owns the property, said he was not prepared to comment on the city's request. Attempts to reach representatives for Wal-Mart for comment were unsuccessful.
There is disagreement on the City Commission about seeking the continuance. Commissioner Boog Highberger said he is opposed to the idea. Highberger had joined Rundle and Schauner in voting against the last Wal-Mart plan in October.
"I was not satisfied with the result of the last attempt to settle this," Highberger said. "I think we need to go to court and have this settled once and for all."
Hack said she wants to avoid a trial if possible.
"Our attorneys are prepared to proceed to trial on Monday," Hack wrote in the letter, "but if Wal-Mart and 6Wak are interested in exploring zoning and plans in a planning setting, rather than in a courtroom, we would prefer that opportunity."
The Wal-Mart project has drawn opposition from several neighbors, who believe the store would create traffic problems for their neighborhoods. Other community members have expressed concern that the store will hurt other retail areas of the community.
"It would be extremely unfortunate," Gwen Klingenberg, a west Lawrence resident who has led opposition to the plan, said of a settlement. "We have shown : that the traffic has nowhere to go to get off of Sixth Street except through our neighborhood. We're looking at some child or adult getting hurt by traffic."
Wal-Mart officials have disagreed with contentions the neighborhood has made about traffic, pointing to a positive recommendation from the city's planning staff when the plan was last considered. Wal-Mart attorneys have said they have met all the city's requirements to build a store at the site. They have alleged their building permit was rejected for political reasons, an allegation the city has denied.