Archive for Friday, August 1, 2014

Plans for Walmart Express in Baldwin City tabled after protests

August 1, 2014


— Wal-Mart Inc. has dropped plans to build a Walmart Express at a Baldwin City site that spurred community protests last month.

Although the announcement of the decision left the door open for the retail giant to explore another site in the city, it ended any further city consideration of the site on U.S. Highway 56 between Eisenhower Avenue and Washington Street.

“Currently, our Baldwin City customers have to travel long distances to shop at Walmart,” company spokesperson Delia Garcia wrote in an email to the Baldwin City Signal. “While we remain committed to finding ways to help them save time and money on the general merchandise, groceries and pharmacy services they want and need for their families, we have made a business decision to not pursue a Walmart Express at the proposed location.”

The announcement came 17 days after the Baldwin City Planning Commission tabled a site plan for a Walmart Express on the property between Eisenhower Avenue and Washington Street pending a traffic study and a Baldwin City Council review of the site plan’s compatibility with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The proposal would have built a nearly 12,000-square-foot store with fuel station, pharmacy and grocery with meat, dairy and fresh produce departments.

Collin Biesler, Baldwin City community development director, said the city had not heard from BFA Engineering, the firm representing Wal-Mart Inc., since a July 17 teleconference. During that conference, BFA representatives were told the Kansas Department of Transportation agreed for the need of a traffic study. KDOT has an agreement with the city in which it must review and approve intersection changes within the city on U.S. 56.

The Walmart plan stirred a protest petition that was signed by more than 900 people in the week after it was learned a Walmart Express was planned for the city. About 100 residents opposed to the proposal appeared at both a July 14 Baldwin City Council meeting and a July 15 Baldwin Planning Commission meeting, at which the a site plan for the store was considered. The residents expressed concern Baldwin City Market, two existing pharmacies and two convenience stores would not survive if the Walmart Express opened.

The company's announcement Friday also came among rumors the proposed store site had been sold to another buyer. Roger Johnson, the property owner who brought the re-platting to the planning commission in June, refused Friday to comment on any sale.

The news prompted a fist-pump from Frank Foye, owner of the Santa Fe Market convenience store four blocks west of the proposed Walmart Express. Foye said he was grateful for the community support and the role it may have played in the decision.

"I think it says people here like their small-town atmosphere and want it to stay that way," he said. "That's fine with me, because that's what I want."

In the parking lot of Baldwin City Market, before stocking up on groceries for the weekend, Jennifer Johanning said the Walmart statement "was a good start." But the wording that left open the possibility the company would look for another site had her concerned, said Johanning, who signed the project petition and attended the city council and planning commission meetings to speak out against the Walmart Express.

"I intend to stay diligent," she said. "You can bet we are all going to pay more attention to any re-platting or zoning change."


Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

I was at the second meeting in the American Legion Hall. It felt like a village whose occupants had pitchforks and were ready to go to work. The Wal Mart Representative has it backwards. Baldwin City is less than 20 minutes from the Iowa Street Wal Mart in Lawrence and is less than 25 minutes from Gardner or Ottawa Wal Marts. I've seen the damage done to town squares throughout southern Kansas and northern and northeastern Oklahoma by Wal Marts over the years and it doesn't need to happen in Baldwin City. I witnessed a rural grocery store in Howard, Kansas, in Elk County put out of business by a Wal Mart in Independence, Kansas some 35 miles away in the earty 2000's. Enough is enough.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

The customers "found it inferior" because the local store was unable to leverage the near-monopoly buying power of a Walmart. Meanwhile, Walmart pays a wage low enough that employees can't even afford the products they offer without government assistance. Propping up inferior business like Walmart is part of why the economy is in the tank right now.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

You're confusing pricing and inferior. People shop at WalMart because they perceive it to be cheaper, but much of what they have is inferior product. Americans would rather have more stuff, than quality stuff, so WalMart is successful.

However we have suffered for that cheap stuff. In order for manufacturing to sell to WalMart they had to leave the country to use cheaper labor, putting many Americans out of a job, leaving only low paying retail jobs, so those people have to shop at WalMart to find lower priced, low quality items. Some people admire this business model, because it's made the Walton family rich beyond anyone's vision. But these same people will look down on the retail workers, and make fun of people on welfare or unemployment, which I find disgusting and inhumane. I don't shop at WalMart, because of what they have done to our country and it's people.

RJ Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

Let me tell ya something Mike. If Wal-Mart wants to build in Baldwin, they will build in Baldwin. It might not be the location they picked first, but they will lf build it! Have you forgotten, this is a free Country! Free enterprise!

Steve Jacob 3 years, 9 months ago

Honest question, what percentage of people in Baldwin get most of their groceries in Baldwin? If it's 50% or less why not have a Wal Mart employing Baldwin residents?

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe because Baldwin residents want decent wages instead of a further depressed local economy? Why not hold out for a WinCo or Publix?

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

gee....I heard from all of the hypocrite commenters. You don't like healthcare or anything else rammed down your throats but you have no problem with watching this happen to anyone else whose not wanting the high traffic, the low wages, the destruction of a local economy, and the outflow of dollars to Bentonville, Arkansas. The disconnect that all of you share is in total view today. Thanks for the heads up.

Brian Hall 3 years, 9 months ago

"Baldwin" has been used to refer to Baldwin City since the beginning. The city limit signs say "Baldwin", it's Baldwin High School, not Baldwin City High School, it was the Baldwin Ledger, it's Baldwin State Bank, not Baldwin City State Bank, the depot was named Baldwin not Baldwin City, even the post office was known as just Baldwin from 1887 to 1912.

I lived in Baldwin for eight years and still work there and no one calls it Baldwin City in casual conversation, not even the lifelong old-timers.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Consumers can live without a Wal-Mart. To believe otherwise indicates some homework should be on the horizon. I have not shopped Wal-Mart for years. I discovered the savings are not that great. Not only that our local business people and their employees need our support.

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

My grandfather Merlin Ford operated Ford's IGA from 1952 to 1980 in Baldwin City. I remember Selzer's Dry Goods, Betty B's, Breicheisen's Hardware, Dale's Grocery Store, the Gem Theatre and Whitford Chevrolet. My grandfather put off moving his store to the highway and stayed downtown in 1970. He sold out when Kroger's started affecting his bottom line just like if Wal Mart came here they would undercut Baldwin City Market's and the Pharmacy's bottom line. People do have the right to say no to globalization. These comments sure showed me how schizophrenic conservatives are between free market and protectionism movements. I wished they realized this conundrum and many others like it themselves.

JJ Morgan 3 years, 9 months ago

Before my wife and I moved to Lawrence, the town I worked in at the time, with two supermarkets in town plus downtown businesses, announced that a WalMart Supercenter was coming in..and of course, the death of business in the town was the talk everywhere.

So we move back from Lawrence to this area, and the town has not only the Supercenter (their small sized one), but the two other supermarkets all doing well, plus the other businesses you would think would be decimated have not. This is a town of 8,000 people, 20 miles from TWO other full-sized Supercenters, plus Menards on top of it. And the businesses are all doing fine..go figure!

I deal with the president of the Chamber of Commerce regularly, and she, like me, would never have thought it would turn out like that for sure!

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

look at Chanute or Iola and tell what Wal Mart did to those downtowns.

David Reynolds 3 years, 9 months ago

Your very arguments against Walmart tell you why Walmart should be considered.

First people buy their products & services because they find them more desirable than other options. Price does play a part in keeping/loosing a customer, but so does loyalty, quality & service. No competition no improvement for customers. It can be win/win.

2nd Baldwin is missing out on gaining sales tax revenue from surrounding farmers & communities that now travel to Lawrence, KC & Topeka.

3rd where are the opportunities for the young people of Baldwin to get part time jobs while going to school & working summers?

4th Walmart doesn't necessarily kill local businesses. It is the lack of a positive response by local business to increased competition that kills local businesses. Look at Lawrence, two local grocers, The Merc & Checkers, survive in spite of 2 Walmarts, Dillons & Hy-Vee.

The arguments used to kill Walmart are myopic & only hurt Baldwin.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

We have two WalMarts in Lawrence and numerous other grocery stores with more on the way. Wal Mart didn't kill them and last I heard the Merc is doing very well.

Wal Mart will kill off businesses that survive only because there isn't any competition.

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

Iots of comments without empirical evidence. Lawrence can support all of the extra stores because the unchecked development keeps adding people in neighborhoods to the west that I've never travelled through because these neighborhoods were designed not to be travelled through by $. Secondly most of the employees I see at the Baldwin City Market are teenagers so what's this nonsense about kids and no jobs? I've never seen teenagers working at the Wal Marts I've previously shopped at. I may see 19 year olds or 20 year olds there but no high school kids since Wal Mart is a high paced low mistake environment. I see young kids at the Quik Shop and Sonic and I see college aged kids at the Spoke and Taco Bell. Baldwin City has a good enough educational system that many kids leave here to go to college somewhere else or they take over their parent's farms.

Another thing....what kind of tax exemptions does Wal Mart throw down to sweeten the pot like they do in big cities on a place like Baldwin City?

Quality....Wal Mart......really? I'm glad I've heard from many sellouts today.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

"I've never seen teenagers working at the Wal Marts I've previously shopped at. I may see 19 year olds or 20 year olds there but no high school kids."

So you go to Wal Mart?

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

trolling sport comment or actual question? the first Wal Mart I remember was in 1981 in Manhattan, KS, when we moved there from Louisiana. A while ago I shopped at Wal Mart. I don't anymore.

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