Milwaukee, WI. Local Residents Beat Back A Sam's Club
The standoff in Milwaukee, Wisconsin between a Wal-Mart Sam's Club and local residents is over. And local residents won.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today that Wal-Mart shut down their proposal to build a 136,085 s.f. Sam's Club on 32 acres on the northwest side of the city. The newpaper said the retailed pulled its plans "after running into oppositon from nearby homeowners." Wal-Mart sent a letter to a city Alderman saying its request to rezone the property in question was being withdrawn.
The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee was under no obligation to rezone the parcel, which currently does not allow commercial activity. Whomever chose this parcel at Wal-Mart Stores must have realized it was zoned for single family residential, and as such is much more difficult to get through Zoning boards.
Wal-Mart hedged its bet by telling the newspaper, "we're still evaluating over there." In their letter to city officials Wal-Mart said it retained the right to change its mind "if circumstances change."
It is clear however, that the land is residentially zoned -- and unless the city changes that classification -- Wal-Mart can do all the "evaluating" it wants, but it's not going to get its huge retail store. The parcel today is currently used to park school busses.
The city alderman who represents the district with the Sam's Club parcel, told the Journal Sentinel that Wal-Mart's plan had met with "overwhelming opposition" from homeowners, who complained about potential traffic gridlock, noise, and the impact of stormwater runoff.
Ironically, there is an existing Sam's Club store nearby, but it was built 21 years ago, which is ancient history for Wal-Mart. The 'old' Sam's Club, if it ever became empty, would have posed a serious risk of blight on the neighborhood.
Milwaukee already has 11 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles, including 5 supercenters. One of the supercenters is on East Capitol Drive in Milwaukee, and there is a Wal-Mart discount store on S. 27th. Street. The city is saturated with Wal-Mart stores.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (the same Tom Barrett who lost a recent Mayoral vote to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
Dear Mayor Barrett,
Milwaukee does not need another Sam's Club -- so its good news this week that Wal-Mart has clubbed its Sam's proposal for the northwest side of the city. They overlooked one minor detail: the 32 acres they wanted were zoned single family residential.
I hope that your Administration will pledge not to rezone any land in the city for big box retailing. As you well know, Wal-Mart brings no added value to the local economy. There are already 11 Wal-Mart's within 20 miles of your city -- not counting the Sam's Club. Wal-Mart is one of the most wasteful developers in the nation -- leaving behind hundreds of empty buildings that often become a blight on the local landscape.
So if Wal-Mart does in fact ever changes its mind, please tell them at the outset that there is no way your Administration would ever support rezoning any residential land for retail commercial use. Wal-Mart doesn't care if it cannibalizes its own sales in the course of destroying other businesses. But as Mayor, you have to seek businesses that bring new jobs to your local economy -- and that certainly is not a Wal-Mart, and not a Sam's club.
For now, the neighbors are celebrating. But its up to you as Mayor to remain watchful, and to ensure that nothing like this huge retail waste of property ever returns to Milwaukee.