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2008-09-03
West Dundee, IL. West Approves Wal-Mart Superstore To Detriment of East

This could be the final chapter in the Tale of Two Cities. On April 5, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that the village of East Dundee, Illinois was in an uproar because a real estate listing showed that the Wal-Mart discount store # 1531 in the village was being advertised as available for lease or sale by the winter of 2007, and that a larger superstore was going to be built in neighboring West Dundee. East Dundee Village President Jerald Bartels met with local Wal-Mart officials, who seemed as surprised as he was. The East Dundee store was not officially posted on the Wal-Mart Realty website. "We have no official word from Wal-Mart that anything is happening at this point," officials said at the time. But Wal-Mart officials eventually told the village it was shutting down its store in East Dundee to move to West Dundee. The store in West Dundee will be less than 2 miles from the existing store in East Dundee. One local official described Wal-Mart's move from East Dundee as a "body blow" to village finances. The Wal-Mart discount store on Dundee Avenue in East Dundee is now about 20 years old -- which is ancient by Wal-Mart standards. The East Dundee store generates about $600,000 a year in sales tax revenues for the village -- a gross number, before subtracting out the substantial municipal expenses, such as police, fire and road maintenance. East Dundee Village President Dan O'Leary said his community would lose 15% of its service-related funds when Wal-Mart shuts down. "I am guessing we could see a $600,000 cut from our $4 million operating budget," O'Leary said. "That could mean a reduction in services like police and public works, and then we just run out of places to cut back." West Dundee officials seemed to have little qualms about stealing revenues from their neighbor. West Dundee's Village Manager admitted that Wal-Mart was negotiating with General Growth Properties Inc., the owner of Spring Hill Mall, for a mall out lot that was commercially zoned. To make matters worse, it appears that East Dundee will make the transfer of location possible through a deal between the two villages in which the East provides sewer services for the West. So the West will be able to offer sewer to the new 186,000 s.f. Wal-Mart stolen from East Dundee, by using East Dundee's sewer system. On April 27, 2008, Sprawl-Busters updated this "tale of two cities." Anticipating Wal-Mart would close, East Dundee cut its budget 6%, and then another 10% this year. "If we could get a final decision from Wal-Mart, we could take advantage of other opportunities in the area," one village official said. "Some companies say they want to be with Wal-Mart, others say they don't want to be anywhere near Wal-Mart." By June of 2008, two years after the East versus West controversy began, and as the village board in West Dundee prepared to consider Wal-Mart's application, the Courier News reported that West Dundee residents were speaking out against the superstore. The citizen's group, Dundee Neighbors, which was formed this past spring, has dominated the hearings thus far. Only one person spoke in favor of the superstore at the June hearing. Dundee Neighbors has asked the village to hold off voting for 30 days so the group could conduct independent studies of the project. "Wal-Mart has objected -- they want as little input as they can get away with," one opponent told the News. Opponents said that Wal-Mart's own traffic study showed that intersections that are now at a level of service F (failing) would remain failing despite the four-lane upgrade Wal-Mart plans to construct. "We just don't think that a Wal-Mart Supercenter is a right fit," a spokeswoman for Dundee Neighbors told the Chicago Tribune. "There's really no need for it in our community." This week, the West Dundee Trustees voted unanimously to approve the final engineering and landscaping plans for the Wal-Mart Supercenter. "It's what they call their 'green' building with skylights," one Trustee told the Courier News. "It isn't your blue-looking Wal-Mart." This week's follows a vote cast in June, in support of the special use permits and variances required by the project. The color of the store seems to be more important that the neighbor's strident opposition to the plan. Wal-Mart will build a store with "oak" and "coffee" colors, and the new Wal-Mart logo. Citizen comments got the village to require that the rear light standards be lowered from 40 feet to 30 feet, and some buffering for the loading dock to shield it from the nearby homes -- but these changes will not mitigate the harm done to residential abuttors. Dundee Neighbors remained upset by the potential increased traffic, the increased crime, increased storm water runoff and lack of any market need for another Wal-Mart so close to the East Dundee store. The village even went so far as to vacate a portion of a village-owned road to allow Wal-Mart to build. "It is in what will be the parking lot of Wal-Mart," one Trustee said. "There's no real need for it."

What you can do: There is really no need for a Wal-Mart in West Dundee. Historically, this site has provided a transition zone between shopping uses and 205-homes in a nearby subdivision. Dundee Neighbors were literally fighting for the future value of their homes. The property is adjacent to a park with baseball fields, tennis courts and a playground. Neighbors know that if a huge retail project encroaches on this buffer zone, that their homes will be harder to resell, and will lose value -- not to mention having a noisy and congested neighbor. This land was rezoned in 2000 from residential to commercial, according to the Tribune, for another big box: a Meijer's store. That project fell through, but the rezoning left the property open for another big box. "It had a residential zoning, but it was never intended to be developed residentially, because it was part of the Spring Hill Mall holdings," said West Dundee's village manager. But the mall owners had no right to a rezoning. The neighbors hired land use attorney Brian O'Connor, who all but conceded defeat when he told the Tribune, "They understand it's not a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen. But it needs to be consistent with the residential character of that area." Readers are urged to email West Dundee Village President Larry Keller at lkeller@wdundee.org with this message: "Dear President Keller, the land for the proposed Wal-Mart superstore was zoned residential up until the year 2000. Many of the homeowners who live near this site bought their homes trusting that a big box superstore was not something they would ever have to live with as a neighbor. Good zoning decisions should always create a win/win situation. In this case, you have given Wal-Mart a win, and set the neighbors up as losers. That's because the scale of this project is outside of the realm of what's appropriate for a site that abuts a large residential development. The building alone is bigger than three football fields. The absurdity of this situation is heightened by the fact that this larger store will cause the existing Wal-Mart in East Dundee to close down. The lack of regional planning between East and West Dundee has allowed developers to play one community off the other. I hope the Dundee Neighbors will take the village to court over this bad land use decision. The fact that the store is going to be coffee-colored isn't going to change the damage this store will do to the quality of life in the neighborhoods, and the value of homes."










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

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