Wal-Mart decision rests with County Commission
July 18, 2008
The Summit County Commission must give its OK before Wal-Mart at Kimball Junction can expand into a Supercenter.
"I never make up my mind until I go through the public hearing and weigh all of the public comment and evidence," County Commissioner Sally Elliott said Thursday when asked how she will vote. "Public hearings for me are true opportunities for me to learn, so I never make a decision in advance of a public hearing."
Wal-Mart officials hope to expand the store at 6545 N. Landmark Drive by about 43,000 square feet to house a full-service grocery. The County Commission will conduct a public hearing about the proposed expansion Wednesday at the Sheldon Richins Building at 4 p.m.
With a 4-0 vote, Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioners Flint Decker, Claudia McMullin, Jeff Smith and Julie Baker recommended the County Commission approve a permit for the expansion. New Basin Planning Commissioner Bassam Salem said he did not have enough background about the project. He abstained July 8.
Decker did not comment when reached Friday except to refer questions to McMullin, the Basin Planning Commission chairwoman.
"You can talk up one side and down the other about how you don’t like Wal-Mart. But, I’m telling you, every person in this town, at 11 o’clock at night before a project is due in school, has been over there buying poster board," Basin Planning Commissioner Julie Baker said in a telephone interview. "Everybody goes over there."
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The store would be remodeled and expanded to 115,758 square feet.
"I believe the expansion certainly makes what is there better. It’s not a great place right now," Baker said, adding that landscaping and lighting would improve. "The public will not even notice that it is larger."
But Elliott said input she received about the proposed remodel was mostly negative.
"I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents, and all of the input I’ve gotten is negative," Elliott said.
Still, people want the dilapidated building cleaned up, Baker stressed.
Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said he will vote for the expansion.
"I thought that we were pretty well all on board in making the expansion," Woolstenhulme said. "We’ve known that this is coming and that this is in the works, and we’ve known all along that this was going to happen."
Wal-Mart should be allowed to expand in exchange for the store helping rebuild nearby Landmark Drive by selling land to the county, Woolstenhulme said.
"We had to get some property from Wal-Mart in order to do that," he said.
Wal-Mart officials showed the expansion wouldn’t significantly increase traffic on Landmark Drive, McMullin explained.
"The Landmark realignment is going through Wal-Mart’s property," McMullin said Friday. "Whatever deal they struck on the land is benefiting the county as a whole."
Big-box stores were not strictly regulated by codes when Wal-Mart was approved at Kimball Junction in 1991.
But if the potential impacts are dealt with, the county cannot prevent store officials from increasing the building’s size, McMullin said, adding that "we don’t have a choice legally, or we could get sued."
"It’s Wal-Mart’s position that it isn’t really going to impact traffic," McMullin said. "We can’t say ‘no’ to expanding a legal nonconforming use if the applicant has mitigated its impacts, and agrees to conform with the code in every respect but the expansion."
Nobody complained to her about the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, she said.
"How many public hearings did we have on this? I know we had at least two," McMullin said. "The only people who spoke were for it. Any time we were having the hearing, I would be expecting a big crowd, and I would never get any crowd."
Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer wouldn’t say how he will vote when reached Thursday.
"We did receive some correspondence some in favor, some opposed," Richer said about his e-mails from constituents.
The Wal-Mart public hearing before the Summit County Commission is scheduled July 23 at 4 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building at Kimball Junction.