Controversial Wal-Mart expansion gets nod | ParkRecord.com

Controversial Wal-Mart expansion gets nod

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Wal-Mart plans to super size.

Officials expect to expand the store at 6545 N. Landmark Drive by nearly 43,000 square-feet to provide a full-service grocery inside the new Supercenter.

But the Summit County Commission must still approve the permit, which was supported by four Snyderville Basin planning commissioners Tuesday. New Planning Commissioner Bassam Salem abstained from the vote.

"It’s not very common for them to reverse the recommendation of the Planning Commission," Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak said.

Gabryszak hopes in expanding the store that Wal-Mart officials will clean the parking lot and patch the dilapidated building.

"We received several letters from individuals in the community asking us to make sure that Wal-Mart cleans up the parking lot and their site," she said.

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But allowing Wal-Mart to expand could create a "monopoly" in Snyderville, Gabryszak acknowledged.

"Another similar business would not even be allowed to come in," she said.

Independent grocer Mike Holm says Wal-Mart, which is the nation’s largest retailer, strong-arms local officials to get what they want.

"Wal-Mart just seems to always bully itself in and gets their way. I feel, we as a community need to support the stores that are there so they can hold their own," said Holm, who owns The Park City Market. "Everybody just seems to bow down to them and it hurts a small businessman. We just don’t need another grocery store."

His competition in western Summit County already consists of Smith’s Food and Drug, Whole Foods and two Albertsons stores.

"It’s tough to make that work in today’s market and today’s world The margins are just too tight in the grocery industry," Holm said.

Wal-Mart can afford to slash prices to lure customers to Kimball Junction, he lamented.

"They’ll offer stuff ridiculously cheap and lose money on it. It’s cutthroat," Holm explained. "Consumers will drive out six miles to save $1.50 on Tide soap."

At 115,758 square-feet, the proposed store is smaller than most Wal-Mart Supercenters, according to Gabryszak.

"They’re starting to do a new business model with smaller stores still offering groceries," Gabryszak said. "They needed to bring the rest of the site into compliance with architecture, landscaping, lighting and so on."

Zoning rules did not strictly regulate big-box stores when Wal-Mart was approved at Kimball Junction in 1991.

Wal-Mart officials claim the expansion will not increase traffic.

"Our store expansion and remodel will create a more customer-friendly shopping experience, a cleaner merchandising display and more room for popular garden center products," Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.

Modern architecture will update the front of the building, he said.

"We are excited about this opportunity, not only because it will update the look of the store, but it also allows us to respond to the significant growth in customer demand since the store was originally constructed," Loscotoff said.

Meanwhile, construction of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter is underway in Heber. Boyer Co. hopes to complete the project in 2011. The nearly 150,000 square-foot building near Main Street is at the intersection of U.S. 40 and U.S. 189.

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