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2012-09-14
Elmwood Park, WI. Wal-Mart Abandons Another Proposed Store

The village of Elmwood Park, Wisconsin has the distinction of being the last small village in the state to incorporate in 1960. Elmwood Park became the new name of the village as there was already a village of Elmwood in northwest Wisconsin. The village designation came about after a "court battle." It seems like battling is a way of life in Elmwood Park, since it's also right in the middle of recall election for its Village President on September 18th.

But one major battle that has been settled is over a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that kicked up a lot of local controversy. According to the Journal Times newspaper, Wal-Mart announced on August 29th that it was abandoning plans for a 41,000 s.f. Neighborhood Market on the village's edge.

The plan was promoted by Gatlin Development, a company that readers of Sprawl-Busters have seen many times before -- each project wrapped in dissention. According to the newspaper, this Gatlin plan "faced stiff, organized oppositionz" from locals in Elmwood Park.

A Wal-Mart spokesman bid farewill to Village officials via email. "Wal-Mart is constantly striving to better serve its customers in the Racine area. We are excited to have received approval last week from the Mount Pleasant Plan Commission for a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market at the former Little Saints Day Care site. We anticipate that store will be open by the 2013 holiday season. However, the very unique circumstances at the vacant Kohl's store in Elmwood Park and Racine have made that project infeasible from a cost and timing perspective, and after much due diligence, we have decided to re-evaluate the market. Wal-Mart is excited to seek other opportunities to improve the shopping options of our Racine area customers."

In other words, we can take our marbles elsewhere.

This ill-fated Elmwood Park project has been knocking around for the past six month, when Gatlin first submitted his plans to combine a vacant food store property with a residential property. This would have necessitated a rezoning, which is always a risk for deveopers.

But in late August, Gatlin blamed "mounting costs" of just developing the commercial parcel. . "We will re-analyze and try to find a site that will be more economical and that would make more sense to Racine," Gatlin was quoted as telling the Journal Times. "Wal-Mart is looking for other sites in both Racine and Caledonia."

But the reality is, the homeowners abutting this property raised a stink, and began organizing a group called the Friends of Elmwood Park. They also turned their aim towards Village President Audrey Viau, who neighbors claimed had sold them out, so they created the Committee to Recall Audrey Viau and after collecting sufficient signatures to trigger a recall election, neighbors have now place Viau on the ballot to keep her seat in office. Two other trustees were also facing recalls based on their handling of Gatlin's Wal-Mart plan.

Gatlin was hedging its bets, by submitting another Neighborhood Market plan in the nearby Village of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. That project has been approved.
Elmwood Park resident Alan Bagg, who almost had Wal-Mart as a neighbor, told the Journal Times he was "Pleased and relieved." So was almost everyone else in Elmwood Park. A village survey estimated that 95% of the people in the village were against the Wal-Mart. The push to rezone residential land proved most unpopular.

What you can do: Now the village is left with an eyesore at the old Kohl's site. Readers are urged to email Village President Audrey Viau at audrey0430@aol.com with the following message:

Dear President Viau,

Yes, Wal-Mart can be a politically charged topic, as you have learned. But the company seemed more interested in serving Racine than Elmwood Park, so don't worry about long goodbyes.

Instead, it's time for you to turn your attention to how big box stores end up leaving you with blighted eyesores. Why did your village get stuck with an empty Kohl's store?

Some towns are now requiring retailers and developers to post a demolition bond. If their store is emptied out for 12 months or longer, the company or developer is required to put money in escrow to pay for the demolition of the property to return it to its pre-development state.

Next time you decide to support a commercial development, you might want to check with your citizens first. Now all you've got to show for your efforts to help Wal-Mart is a goodbye email.










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

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