Planning commissioners tonight unanimously approved a preliminary development plan for a controversial Wal-Mart at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
After hearing about one hour of public comment - almost all against the project - planning commissioners on an 8-0 vote agreed to recommend that the City Commission approve the project.
Planning commissioners said they're weren't swayed by much of what the public had to say because many of the comments were about the quality of Wal-Mart as a business. Planning commissioners said they didn't think that was appropriate for the city consider.
"Nobody is forced to buy there and no one is forced to work there," Planning Commissioner Tom Jennings said. " We act like it is going to be indentured servitude out there. If no one wants to go into the front door or the back door, it won't be there long."
Members of the public brought up concerns ranging from Wal-Mart's health benefits and wages. Others, though, said approving the Wal-Mart project will cause other businesses to go out of business because the city is already overbuilt from a retail standpoint.
Neighbors also expressed concern that the development will cause additional traffic in their neighborhoods. But engineers with the city told planning commissioners that they were confident that Sixth Street could handle the additional traffic. The engineers presented new traffic models developed by the Kansas Department of Transportation that looked at the Wal-Mart proposal and other planned developments along the Sixth Street corridor.