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2008-09-03
Vernon Hills, IL. Wal-Mart Superstore Back For A Second Bite

On May 26, 2008 Sprawl-Busters reported that village officials in Vernon Hills, Illinois, were saying that a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter had been cancelled. This week, local residents said reports of Wal-Mart's demise were premature, and the retailer is still a threat. They indicate that a new proposal for a Wal-Mart is surfacing one mile south of where the original plan was filed. Vernon Hills, a community of roughly 24,500 people, already has a Wal-Mart discount store on Townline Road. There are 19 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of Vernon Hills, one of which is a supercenter in Waukegan, Illinois just ten miles away. On June 5, 2007, President of the Village Trustees, Roger Byrne, announced that Bradford Realty planned to petition the Village of Vernon Hills to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a vacant lot north of Gregg's Parkway at Milwaukie Avenue, on land formerly owned by printing magnate John Cuneo Sr. From the outset, the Wal-Mart proposal triggered an outpouring of vocal opposition. A citizen's group launched a website against the project. The group explained: "As residents of Gregg's Landing and other neighborhoods in Vernon Hills, Libertyville, and Mundelein we respectfully say 'No, Thank you.' Wal-Mart has been an asset to our community and has contributed greatly. They have donated thousands of dollars to our local schools, civic groups and charities. While we are very appreciative of these efforts we do not believe building a Supercenter at that location is in anyone's best interest. We urge Wal-Mart to expand at their current site rather than construct a new facility. We have several specific concerns which cannot be remedied. These concerns include: dangerous traffic and safety issues, potential environmental hazards, decreased property values, excessive noise, and more." Three months ago, the Chicago Tribune reported that Wal-Mart's supercenter plan has stalled -- but residents were not convinced the project was dead. Gregg's Landing is an upscale residential community that is already reeling from the construction of a 170,000 s.f. Lowe's home improvement center. The 50 acres of open land that could become a Wal-Mart is what had neighbors up in arms. "It's not the best use, in our opinion, of that property," the president of Gregg's Landing North Homeowners Association told the Chicago Tribune. Wal-Mart never officially admitted that the Gregg's Landing site was off the table, but a village official told the Tribune, "We haven't gotten an official thumbs-down from them. From what we understand, he's not pursuing it. They're looking at other options in the community." The Gregg's Landing development itself is quite large, spreading over 1,000 acres of land. Homes there can start as high as $1 million, and not all the lots are yet filled. Gregg's Landing residents want something more upscale, a pedestrian-friendly outdoor mall that would be a more compatible neighbor to a high-end housing development. "We're looking at something with lower traffic counts -- and things residents could walk to, such as restaurants, grocery stores, ice cream stores," said the president of the Oakmont subdivision in Gregg's Landing. This week, residents in Vernon Hills wrote to Sprawl-Busters with the following update: "Although the previous Vernon Hills Wal-Mart site appears to have been defeated, the developer is still trying to put a Supercetner in our community. Many of us are still concerned about Wal-Mart's expansion in Vernon Hills at ANY location. The property owner, Cuneo Trust, first tried to bring a supercenter to their upscale Greggs Landing development. Due to heavy opposition from residents, the developer backed down. Cuneo Trust also owns 45 acres of undeveloped land at the corner of Townline Road and Milwaukie. That property is about one mile south of the Greggs Landing project, and is already zoned for business use. This new property sits across from the Westfield Hawthorn Mall on one side, and is kitty corner from the existing Wal-Mart, which is a 'discount store' not a supercenter. According to Village staff, the mall developer and landowners are already talking about putting a Wal-Mart Supercenter at this location. No application is filed, but is expected soon. Many of us are still concerned about Wal-Mart's expansion in Vernon Hills. Neighbors need to get organized soon -- before it's too late. This intersection is already plagued with traffic congestion, let alone the other social, economic and environmental damage that these stores seem to bring to their host communities."

What you can do: In the first Wal-Mart battle, neighboring homeowners began a website to oppose the superstore. Their website can be found at: www.stopgreggswalmart. Now with this second plan in the offing, residents are again getting organized to block Wal-Mart. The residents wrote: "A small group of anti-Wal-Mart activists has joined up online, and we're trying to rally neighbors to fight the new site. Please encourage people to join at www.Meetup.com -- We are the "Vernon Hills Boycott Wal-Mart Meetup Group". We'll have our first meeting in September to discuss ways to stop this new proposal." Readers are also urged to email Village President Roger Byrne at: LynnD@vhills.org with the following message: "President Byrne, allowing Lowe's to open up at 170,000 s.f. was bad enough -- but adding to the damage by permitting an even bigger Wal-Mart -- that would be compounding the problems for your village. The first superstore proposal at Gregg's Landing made no sense at all -- but moving the proposal down by the Westfield Hawthorn Mall makes no sense either. There are many zoning changes that Vernon Hills could make to limit the size of and scope of retail projects, so they have more of a village feel. Given the fact that Wal-Mart has not formally submitted its plans, if you passed a cap on the size of retail stores of 60,000 s.f., Wal-Mart would have to choose to either fit into Vernon Hills, or find somewhere else to sprawl. Wal-Mart will bring no added value economically to your village, because a superstore will only cause the existing Wal-Mart discount store to close. Most of the jobs and revenues at the superstore will come from the old discount store, and some local grocery stores will close. Your village model is 'People planning with pride.' You have a chance now to do some "planning with pride" that the whole village can be proud of -- instead of a battle that creates winners and losers over a superstore."















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

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