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2013-06-29
New Berlin, WI. Residents File Lawsuit to Block Wal-Mart Rezoning

New Berlin, Wisconsin is a city just west of Milwaukee with just under 40,000 people. It has a median household income that's about 44% higher than the statewide average It also has 9 Wal-Marts within 11 miles, including Wal-Mart store #5438 on W. National Avenue in New Berlin, and a Wal-Mart superstore just over 3 miles to the south in Muskego. If every there were a city saturated with big box stores, New Berlin is it.

No wonder then that the Milwaukee Express reports that a resident group called Neighbors First New Berlin, which filed a lawsuit against the City of New Berlin and Wal-Mart to block a proposed 24-7 superstore that will cause an existing Wal-Mart to shut down.

Neighbors First filed a petition with 1,800 signatures against the plan--but petitions are not legally binding. The petition states, "We believe that a Wal-Mart Supercenter at that location will cause irreparable environmental and economic damage and negatively impact the quality of life to the residents of that neighborhood."

The residents say that the rezoning of the property, which the Village Board adopted in May, violates the city's land-use plan for that site. The 16 acre parcel is wooded, and has a small wetland on the site.

Ironically, New Berlin is known as the "city of trees," but this Wal-Mart plan will tilt that towards a "city of asphalt" designation. The citizen's lawsuit says that rezoning urban residential and mixed-use residential to suburban commercial and eliminating residential zoning violates the New Berlin 2020 Comprehensive Plan, which says that this intersection should feature "signature buildings that are compatible with surrounding areas," and that buildings should expand vertically, not sprawl horizontally.

The city's Comp Plan shows residents' preference for small scale retail, not big boxes. There is also a regional land use plan which calls for low- or medium-density uses for that site.

New Berlin's Mayor David Ament has recused himself from voting as a Planning Commission member because his wife works for Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart already has a store in New Berlin, and three years left on its lease. But it wants to add a grocery component in New Berlin, and so plans to shut down its existing store and give its current employees a chance to work at the new store. Wal-Mart claims the net job gain will be 50 to 100 'new' jobs---but there is no analysis of how many existing jobs will be lost at existing retailers. Most impact studies suggest that this kind of store opening, accompanied by an existing store closing, will have a negligible impact on jobs.

Readers are urged to email New Berlin Mayor David Ament at: dament@newberlin.org with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Ament,

Your city's motto is "city living with a touch of country." If you keep approving big box stores in inappropriate places, your motto will be amended to read, "city living with a touch of asphalt."

You have 9 Wal-Marts within 11 miles of New Berlin. Your median household income is far above the state average, so your residents are not needing a 10th Wal-Mart to tell them cheap, Chinese imports. In this case, you get a new store---but you get a dead store too. And who is going to tear down your dead Wal-Mart if this new one opens? If you don't ask Wal-Mart to put up a demolition bond, the taxpayers of New Berlin may have to foot the bill to close the National Avenue store down.

The land Wal-Mart wants is not properly zoned, and incompatible with your Comprehensive Plan. That is not the Alderman's fault. Wal-Mart chose the wrong land. It is never good land use planning to build a superstore near a residential area. You can't put up trees, you can't hide it behind berms. The homeowners get the lights and the noise, the city gets the traffic and the crime.

I urge you to tell your colleagues on the Common Council to follow their common sense. This project is simply the wrong size, and the wrong location."

What you can do: Wal-Mart already has a store in New Berlin, and three years left on its lease. But it wants to add a grocery component in New Berlin, and so plans to shut down its existing store and give its current employees a chance to work at the new store.

Wal-Mart claims the net job gain will be 50 to 100 'new' jobs---but there is no analysis of how many existing jobs will be lost at existing retailers. Most impact studies suggest that this kind of store opening, accompanied by an existing store closing, will have a negligible impact on jobs.

Readers are urged to email New Berlin Mayor David Ament at: dament@newberlin.org with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Ament,

Your city's motto is "city living with a touch of country." If you keep approving big box stores in inappropriate places, your motto will be amended to read, "city living with a touch of asphalt."

You have 9 Wal-Marts within 11 miles of New Berlin. Your median household income is far above the state average, so your residents are not needing a 10th Wal-Mart to tell them cheap, Chinese imports. In this case, you get a new store---but you get a dead store too. And who is going to tear down your dead Wal-Mart if this new one opens? If you don't ask Wal-Mart to put up a demolition bond, the taxpayers of New Berlin may have to foot the bill to close the National Avenue store down.

The land Wal-Mart wants is not properly zoned, and incompatible with your Comprehensive Plan. That is not the Alderman's fault. Wal-Mart chose the wrong land. It is never good land use planning to build a superstore near a residential area. You can't put up trees, you can't hide it behind berms. The homeowners get the lights and the noise, the city gets the traffic and the crime.

I urge you to tell your colleagues on the Common Council to follow their common sense. This project is simply the wrong size, and the wrong location."










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

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