Steve Giles, attorney representing Walmart, a group representing Wal-Mart’s interests in developing a Neighborhood Market at the corner of Vancouver and West Main, made a re-vamped presentation to the Aldermen at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Tensions ran high following the presentation as members of the council and area residents engaged in pointed exchanges with Walmart representatives.
Having considered statements made by area residents at the last meeting, Giles presented a “massaged” version of the proposed development which would, in his words, “meet or exceed” city standards, while allaying concerns of nearby home-owners.
The presentation showed a roughly 42,000 square foot building surrounded by nearly four acres of green space. Giles explained that the perimeter would feature 7 foot berms and six foot fencing to insulate neighbors against any noise or light nuisances.
He pointed out that the development would feature state-of-the-art down-directed LED lighting that would not “bleed off-sight.” He further explained that the proposed construction would stand a full 500 feet from the closest home.
Alderman Seth Irwin of Ward 3 asked Giles, “How is this PUD (Plan for Urban Development) providing public benefits that aren’t achievable through the normal zoning process? Is it because you tried and failed to get it re-zoned that it can’t be achieved?”
“No, Sir. It is because you don’t have a landscape requirement in your ordinance,” replied Giles. “We do have a landscaping requirement as it pertains to PUDs and to say that we do not is disingenuous!” Irwin shot back.
City attorney Trey Smith interjected that the city had an ordinance that “there shall be landscaping;” but that it wasn’t “a true ordinance” because it made no further stipulations.
Irwin continued to question whether the proposed Walmart development would comply with the city’s PUD ordinance, insisting that it provides no benefit unavailable through the regular zoning process, is not compatible with the Russellville’s comprehensive plan, and does not provide needed services in the area.
Steve Jonas, a union representative for Kroger employees, insisted that “the economic impact of Walmart is a net loss. They do not provide benefits to part-time employees, and their full-timers cannot afford them. They will end up on public assistance.”
A young nearby resident, Kristina Rispoli, took issue with Walmart’s assurances that there would be no noise and light nuisance for its Neighborhood Market’s neighbors insisting, “Trees and a fence won’t keep out the noise and light.”
“If you allow this, you will not just violate some civil procedure; you will violate your oath,” said John Peel,a local resident and attorney in an impassioned appeal to the council.
The council then voted unanimously to place the proposal on the agenda for discussion at its meeting scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 24.