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2004-09-18
Hermantown, MN. Residents Upset by Wal-Mart Plans.

Residents in Hermantown, Minnesota have an armload of concerns about a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter, and have formed a new group to protect their interests. The News Tribune reports that a group called Good Neighbors for Responsible Growth met this week at Hermantown City Hall to discuss the environmental issues raised by the proposed 203,000-square-foot supercenter would replace the Wal-Mart that Hermantown already has. The Wal-Mart supercenter would be the largest commercial building in Hermantown's history -- twice the size of the existing Wal-Mart. Neighbors have raised concerns about the abutting Miller Creek, a designated trout stream, and the potential runoff from the huge parking lot that could impact this creek. One local gas station owner also attended the meeting, and told the newspaper, "It's not that we're against business growth or development, but they're a monopoly. When they price things below your cost, you can't compete." Hermantown's Mayor Dave Allen didn't seem to be concerned about the Good Neighbor's issues, and said that the group had not come to the City Council yet. "We already have a Wal-Mart," Allen remembered. "It's not an issue where they are coming in brand-new." The developer is currently completing an environmental assessment Worksheet, which the Planning and Zoning Board will consider first. Once it reaches the City Council, the public will have 30 days to comment on the plan. Residents will have to argue that the environmental impacts warrant a more detailed EIS (environmental impact statement). They will also need to ask for an independent "peer review" of the traffic study submitted by Wal-Mart, which will look like the project was drafted in Lake Wobegone, where all the traffic flow is good looking, and the site plans above average. Wal-Mart wants to begin construction on the supercenter this year, and open by the end of 2005. But the Good Neigbhors could delay that timetable by at least a year, if the EIS is required, and if they appeal to the courts any City Council decision in favor of Wal-Mart.

What you can do: One issue that Hermantown will have to grapple with is the disposal of the "old" Wal-Mart discount store that already exists. City officials would do well to begin negotiating a developer's agreement that if the "old" store is not fully re-tenanted within 24 months of Wal-Mart's departure, that the owner will tear down the building and restore the property to its pre-development condition. Such an agreement would be made a condition of approval for a new, unnecessary Wal-Mart. The Mayor of this city doesn't seem to follow the impact of a "brand new" superstore. Residents will have an uphill battle when local officials start off convinced that Wal-Mart is an economic benefit.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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