Split board sides with Walmart
Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott said she voted against expanding Walmart at Kimball Junction because the company isn’t required to follow the same rules as other businesses, which have installed smaller storefront signs.
Wednesday the Summit County Commission voted 2-1 to allow Walmart at 6545 Landmark Drive to expand by nearly 60 percent. The permit also allows a 74-square-foot sign on the front of the building.
"I can’t accept the sign," Elliott said before she cast the dissenting vote against Walmart. "We don’t need to have a big box with a big sign."
Signs at many businesses in the Snyderville Basin can only be 30 square feet, Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak explained.
"One item on which I will not give is the sign code and compliance," Elliott told Walmart representatives at the meeting at the Sheldon Richins Building. "That’s my bottom line."
Elliott is currently campaigning for seat A on the Summit County Council against Woodland Republican Bill Miles.
Commissioners Bob Richer and Ken Woolstenhulme voted for the conditional use permit, which allows Walmart to expand from 71,844 to about 115,758 square feet.
"This is not a referendum on whether we like or don’t like Walmart. It is a matter of applying our code," Richer explained.
Many citizens believe Walmart hasn’t been a good neighbor since moving into western Summit County in the 1990s, Richer said.
"What is critical to us is that the landscaping is maintained," Richer told Walmart officials. "We do care."
A condition in the permit allows Summit County to withhold Walmart’s annual business license should upkeep of the store lapse.
Past policies of the world’s largest retailer encouraged Walmart employees at Kimball Junction to neglect the store’s outward appearance, Richer explained.
But Troy Herald, a Walmart representative, insists that approach has changed.
"Walmart’s current policies and attitudes toward landscaping are different," Herald said. "The philosophies have changed significantly in the past two or three years."
Because the new Super Walmart will have a full-service grocery, western Summit County resident Richard Thomas claims customers driving to the expanded store will choke traffic at Kimball Junction.
"It’s going to really get bad," Thomas said Wednesday.
At peak traffic times the larger store could create 74 new car trips on Landmark Drive each day, which is a four percent increase, said Kent Wilkerson, a Summit County traffic engineer.
Still, Elliott said she hopes a bus shelter and nearby walkways convince people not to drive to Walmart.
"We want it to be as pedestrian friendly as we can design it," Elliott said.
The current Snyderville Basin General Plan and Development Code discourages big box stores, however, the large retailers were not strictly regulated when Walmart was approved in 1991. With a unanimous vote this year, the Basin Planning Commission recommended the store be allowed to expand.
Meanwhile, with Landmark Drive under construction, Richer stressed that Summit County did not need to approve the Walmart expansion in return for land from the company so the road could be realigned.
"Walmart very much benefited from the improvements we are doing on Landmark Drive," Richer said, adding that the company was paid market rate for its land. "We would have gotten the right-of-way one way or the other."
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