Editorial pubished in MinnPost, February 23, 2012
Once again, elected officials in the North Metro are entertaining unwise choices with regard to economic development. Other recent debacles have included The Anoka County Vikings stadium misfortune, an attempt to expand the number of Blaine Airport flights over the top of new homes and a proposal to build a stock car/drag race track in one of the quietest corners of Anoka County.
The City Council of Blaine will soon vote on a conditional use permit for a new Super Wal-Mart store directly across a two-lane road from and facing a 25-year-old housing development. The new location on Ball Road east of Lexington Avenue would be open for business 24/7. This store would be less than 900 yards from an existing Wal-Mart in "The Village," a developed shopping area less than 10 years old that has recently seen the loss of a video store and a women's-clothing outlet. The current Cub Foods grocery store would then have to compete with the new Super Wal-Mart. The proposed move would further erode economic integrity at the existing Village Shopping center, which would suffer from an abandoned Wal-Mart anchor store. There will be few new permanent jobs created from this plan.
Wal-Mart hired Spack Consulting to do a traffic study for the project. According to the study, traffic on Ball Road will increase from a current daily volume of less than 3,000 vehicles to more than 13,000 vehicles in this neighborhood of single-family homes. Traffic would increase on other surrounding roads as well. The plan does not include any additional through lanes for any roads near the proposed site. There are few sidewalks in the neighborhood. Hundreds of children walk on the roads to access a nearby Centennial High School and Grade School campus located within 500 yards from the planned development.
With few sidewalks, how will children be protected?
Many questions need to be answered before the City Council takes a vote. What additional safety measures are being considered to protect children from traffic conflicts? Why did the Blaine City Council wait until several months before a crucial vote by the city to reveal to the public a plan that has been in the works for at least a year? What tax incentives are being offered to Wal-Mart? Why should the citizens of Blaine give up property values, piece of mind and safety to a multibillion-dollar corporation in order to satisfy its desire to sell groceries directly across the freeway from an existing grocery store?
There is a viable alternative site. A land owner named Joe Preiner offered his property directly across Lexington Avenue from the Village site. He claims his site is shovel ready. The property was once part of the Vikings Stadium site in Blaine and is already zoned for development.
A group of neighbors have decided to do something about this problem and have gone to Blaine City Hall to ask that a "big box" store not be put into their neighborhood. Blaine Citizens for Smart Growth Inc. has asked the City Council to consider other development for this land that will not have such adverse impacts on their neighborhood.
While Wal-Mart may or may not benefit from such a move, it is guaranteed that nearby residents will suffer.