Crestwood, KY. Wal-Mart's Return To This Small City Doesn't Sit Well
Just before Christmas of 2013, Wal-Mart announced that it was returning to Crestwood, Kentucky, a community of less than 5,000 people. The giant retailer had a smaller store here at one point---but shut it down and moved to neighboring Louisville. Now the retailer wants back in---and there are plenty of locals who don't want to let them return.
There is absolutely no market need for another Wal-Mart store in this trade area. There are a total of 6 Wal-Mart stores within 10 miles of Crestwood, including supercenters in Louisville, and Middletown, both less than 5 miles away. Any new store in Crestwood would simply take jobs and sales away from existing stores--including cannibalizing sales from other Wal-Marts.
Crestwood was ranked 52nd overall on a CNNMoney.com survey for "The Best Places to Live, 2005." This was the highest ranking given to any city in the state of Kentucky. The report also revealed that Crestwood had one of the lowest crime rates among the places studied.
According to the Oldham Era newspaper, Wal-Mart's lawyers in Louisville sent out letters to Crestwood residents about plans to build a new store on Highway 329, behind a medical center and near an elementary school. That was followed up by a dog and pony show for the locals on December 16th, held at a local fire department.
Oldham County's Planning and Zoning Director estimated the planning process might take only three months. The parcel Wal-Mart has chosen is not properly zoned, and needs a highway business zone to proceed. But the County Planner did everything he could to make it sound like a done deal.
He told the newspaper he saw no major roadblocks: "We already approved a plan back behind the medical center, there was supposed to be a grocery and strip mall shopping center. Obviously they are going to expand that, but we've already approved a development plan."
Crestwood's Mayor Dennis Diebel opened his arms to the project immediately, and told the Era: "I think it's an added benefit to the city and residents of Crestwood because it generates economic development and growth. And potentially jobs for Crestwood and all of Oldham County." The Mayor did not reveal what economic analysis he relied upon for that unsubstantiated conclusion.
At the informational meeting, Wal-Mart's lawyers revealed that the store would be 158,000 s.f., and that the project would need a zoning change because of the size of the building. Zoning changes are not granted "as a right," and can be a major roadblock, to use the County Planner's term. They are also subject to court appeal.
Despite the fact that Crestwood officials were ready to dance with Wal-Mart, the residents who would have to live day and night with this huge store were full of questions. The Arbor Ridge subdivision and Madison Park condos are right on top of this proposal. They repeated concerns about the heightened level of traffic that will pour down their streets, and the proximity of the site to the Kenwood Station Elementary School. Condo owners at Madison Park challenged traffic flow out of their development. "I don't know how people are ever going to get out of those condos," one owner said.
Even the stucco store design got low marks from the crowd. "Wal-Mart does not get an A-plus in aesthetics," a resident of Arbor Ridge said. "This is garbage." "This is going to devalue our property values," another homeowner complained.
Wal-Mart told the public that its new store would have 300 jobs--but they said nothing about the net impact on employment once jobs are lost at other existing merchants. This proposal will also draw jobs from existing Wal-Marts nearby. The retailer did not discuss the police and fire costs of serving such a large facility. Several residents urged Wal-Mart to cut the store down to a 40,000 s.f. Neighborhood Market---a proposal which drew no response from Wal-Mart's lawyers.
The County's Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to take up the zoning change request on February 25th, and Wal-Mart hopes to be in front of the City of Crestwood by May--assuming local residents go home and forget about all their concerns.
But Dan Fitzgerald, a resident of Madison Park Condominiums, published an op ed in the Oldham Era, listing out his many concerns about the project. "Whatever property taxes the City of Crestwood generates pales in comparison to the damage in overall costs and intrinsic values our community will be giving away by authorizing this Wal-Mart Supercenter facility to be built in this particular location," Fitzgerald wrote. "Where I live, property values will decline."
Also on Fitzgerald's list: "There WILL BE significant increase in artificial lighting, increased air pollution, increased littering, increased potential for accidents & injuries - auto & pedestrian, increased noise pollution, increased crime, increased policing, desecration of natural wildlife space." He then recited the local businesses that would suffer if Wal-Mart comes to town: "Crestwood Ace Hardware, Reardon's Fruit Market, Crestwood Grocery on Central Avenue, Walgreens & CVS Pharmacies, Bluegrass Eye Center, Cox Smoker's Outlet, Minish & Potts Florists, Ann's Hallmark Shop, Dollar General, small clothing boutiques, auto supply stores, local & regional banking Institutions, jewelry retailers, and many other businesses not listed here."
"Is this the City of Crestwood you want to live in... bowing down to the almighty, monolithic Wal-Mart? It won't be pretty folks. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT opposed to business growth by any stretch, as I too own a business. A Wal-Mart Supercenter in this specific location is a disaster waiting to happen...Furthermore, it is more about the 'quality of life and environmental conditions' we all live within. I would hope the community planners might better utilize this open space for a nursing home, medical offices or a less intrusive business to occupy this location. PLEASE DO NOT BE SILENT, WE MUST STAND TALL AGAINST THIS Wal-Mart Supercenter. Many outspoken David's can, in fact, take down this Goliath. I hope you are with me?"
What you can do: All land in Oldham County has placed on it one or more specific zoning districts, or zones. Only certain types of land use activity are allowed to take place in each zone.
If a property owner wishes to use his land for a use not allowed under the current zoning classification, then he must apply for a Zoning Map Amendment, commonly referred to as a zoning change. The Commission conducts a public hearing on the request, and makes a recommendation to the local legislative body for final action. Anyone who feels aggrieved or injured by the decision made by the Commission may appeal the decision directly to the Oldham County Circuit Court within 30 days following the date of the decision.
Dan Fitzgerald and his neighbors clearly have the right to appeal the Planning Commission's decision. If they do, there is no way Wal-Mart will be in front of Crestwood City officials by May.
Readers are urged call Kevin Jeffries, the Chairman of the Oldham County Planning and Zoning Commission, at (502) 222-3213 and leave the following message:
"I am calling for Kevin Jeffries to urge the Planning and Zoning Commission to defer action on the Wal-Mart zoning amendment until you have: 1) a statement describing how the proposed amendment would conform to the Comprehensive Plan. 2) an independent traffic analysis of the impact of this project on local roadways and level of service 3) a statement why the existing zoning classification of the property is inappropriate or improper. 4) a statement describing what the major economic, physical, and social changes will occur in the vicinity of this project and how the basic character of the area will be altered. 5) a statement from the developer about why alternatives that fit within current zoning have not been presented.
There is no market need for a store of this size and type in Crestwood. It is a form of economic displacement that will result in loss of employment and vacant businesses in the trade area. It is not located in an area zoned for this purpose, and will not promote the general welfare of the property owners located near the site, because its scale is incompatible and inharmonious with the surrounding properties, which include many residences, a medical center, and an elementary school.
I urge you to require Wal-Mart to withdraw its present plan and return with a project which fits into the current zones for this property."