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Council splits on zoning potential Wal-Mart site

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A debate over sidewalks to a potential Wal-Mart Supercenter at the former Sale Barn site caused two Storm Lake City Council members to vote against annexing that land at yesterday's council meeting.

Landowners Tom and Sue Cavanaugh, Dale and Roberta Boettcher, and Geisinger Family Farms were seeking a voluntary annexation into the city for the site. The City of Storm Lake was also on the request because property it owns would become an zoning "island" if the other land was annexed, according to Scott Olesen, code official.

The site is the potential location for a Super Wal-Mart, a combination department store and grocery store that features several kinds of specialty shops.

Storm Lake Mayor Jon Kruse said city staff has been working with Wal-Mart officials on a development plan at that location for several months now.

Annexing the Sale Barn site would be the first step to bring a new Wal-Mart development to town, Kruse said.

Council members Dennis Vaudt and Jim Treat voted against annexing the land because of concerns regarding infrastructure. Vaudt said he became concerned about citizens who would be walking or bicycling to that location. A Storm Lake citizen contacted him about the matter, he said.

Vaudt suggested the city should withhold annexing the land to retain "clout" with Wal-Mart regarding funding a sidewalk project to the potential development.

"Quite honestly without Wal-Mart, we wouldn't have this discussion of alternate ways to get there," he said.

Kruse said North Lake Avenue is more of a "highway commercial area," and noted he has safety concerns about adding sidewalks for walkers or bicyclists.

The mayor said the city already has a "handshake" agreement with Wal-Mart for the company to pay for stoplights, a larger than necessary lift station, and expanded sewer and water lines.

"It's not the time to bring this up," he said.

He said annexation is only the first step in the process of establishing a new retail business out there and said there are other steps in the process where it would be more appropriate to discuss development of sidewalks.

Vaudt said he didn't care if a study of sidewalks delays annexation or the project.

"I frankly don't care if the project is delayed 30 days," he said. "An opening date of Jan. 1 or Feb. 1 doesn't make much of a difference."

Kruse added that the city has remained "adamant" about not offering incentives to commercial businesses, including a potential Wal-Mart Supercenter. Tax abatements are available, but those are available for any new development, commercial or private, within city limits.

"It is fair to ask one developer to pay for sidewalks that benefit all the businesses out there?" Kruse asked.

Council member Jim Treat said there needs to be a "logic pertaining to growth." He said the city's earlier developers and city government did not foresee North Lake Avenue becoming the business district it is today.

"It's time to look at traffic out there so we have some foresight and don't get into a pickle like we have out on North Lake Avenue now," he said.

Council member Julie Egland, joining the meeting via telephone, said, "The question today is annexation." She cited the annexation study the city funded several years ago.

"This is an opportunity in the city for growth," she said, adding the city can study sidewalks if it becomes a problem.

Mayor Kruse directed the city's traffic safety team to study adding sidewalks to the area. City Administrator John Call said a report should be made to the council at its next meeting.

The city's planning and zoning board will consider a request from the property owners on Monday, March 25, to change the zoning of the Old Sale Barn site from agriculture to commercial.

In other news:

* Planning continues on the 2002 Street Improvement Project, which includes the reconstruction of North Lake Avenue and work on Shoreway Road and West 4th Street.

The cost estimate for the project is $1,291,237. Bids will be presented to the city council at its next meeting on April 1.

The project includes the reconstruction of the south half of North Lake Avenue, from Milwaukee to just south of 12th Street, and the replacement of several water mains along the route. The other portion of the project is for replacing Shoreway Road/West 4th Street from Northwestern Drive to Barton Street.

* Plans were approved for the upcoming Lake Trail project.

The project calls for the widening of the Lake Trail from Hudson Street to Grand Avenue. It would include replacing the current sidewalk with 8-foot wide sections and would extend the trail through Circle Park.

No one was present for a public hearing on the plans for the Lake Trail project. Administrative Services Director Justin Yarosevich said one person telephoned and suggested using asphalt instead of concrete for the project to make the path more friendly to runners.

* The council authorized the submission of several grants for projects around Storm Lake.

The first is for a 1,000-gallon pumper truck for the fire department. If received, it would be to replace a 33-year old pumper truck, which is scheduled for replacement in the city's capitol improvement plan.

The total cost of the truck would be $273,000. The city would have to provide $27,300, with the FEMA grant covering the rest, said Public Safety Director Mark Prosser.

The fire department applied for the grant last year, but did not receive it. It is highly competitive, Prosser said, with close to $1 billion requested last year alone.

This year FEMA is making available $360 million in the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

The Airport Commission was also given permission by the city council to seek a grant to re-roof the old Chautauqua Building, which is now used as a hangar at the airport.

The grant is through the aviation division of the Iowa Department of Transportation, and would provided $17,500 of the total $25,000 renovation costs. The other $7,500 would be provided by the city.

The current roof is between 25 and 30 years old and leaking, according to Yarosevich.

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