Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa
Wal-Mart will try again.
A developer that's working to bring a Wal-Mart to the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive confirmed Friday that the retailer will submit new plans for the city to consider, rather than immediately putting the project back in the hands of a judge.
"The goal from the very start of this situation has been for Wal-Mart to open a store," said Bill Newsome, who leads the development group that owns the property. "The goal isn't, and never has been, litigation."
Newsome said he and the other developers will submit plans for a Wal-Mart to city planners by next week. Newsome said the plan would include the same amount of retail space - approximately 100,000 square feet - that was proposed by Wal-Mart but rejected by the previous City Commission last year. Newsome said the site layout would be different - in response to suggestions from the city's planning staff - but said he couldn't go over those details until the plan is filed.
The new plans come after Wal-Mart and the developers agreed in April to a city request to delay the start of a trial in Douglas County District Court that was set to determine whether the city previously had illegally denied Wal-Mart a building permit.
The city asked for the delay in order to give two new city commissioners - Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever - a chance to weigh in on the Wal-Mart issue. Following the April election, Chestnut and Dever replaced two of three commissioners who had opposed the previous Wal-Mart plan.
Newsome said he hopes the plan will be considered by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in July, and will be heard by the City Commission shortly thereafter.
A trial - which could still continue if the new plans are rejected - is scheduled to start on Sept. 10.
The project has been opposed by many members of the neighborhood surrounding the site. They have said the store would create additional traffic that will cut through their neighborhood - an assertion that the developers have disputed.
On Friday, Harris Tate, president of the West Lawrence Neighborhood Association, said whether the issue is heard by the court or by the City Commission isn't of much concern to him. He said he just wants to make sure the neighborhood's issues are addressed.
"We know that corner is going to be developed with something," Tate said. "Our major concern is that it is designed with our safety and traffic flow concerns in mind."