Lack of opposition at hearings opens way for sale to Wal-Mart

Opponents of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter had a chance to try and block a rezoning of the land the company plans to build on but remained silent at the Dec. 16 Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing.

So the commission unanimously approved that 7.61 acres north of the existing Wal-Mart be rezoned and split to accommodate the larger store.

To make sure there were no objections to the land issues, the City Council offered a second public hearing during the meeting last Tuesday. Several people voiced their concerns about a Supercenter, but none objected to the lot split or rezoning.

The Council also unanimously approved the first reading of three ordinances that all but clear the way for the sale of the property by Winslow resident Leonard Graham to the corporation. The ordinances would become official after the third reading and adoption by the Council.

The 7.61 acres in question are currently zoned for Manufactured Housing/Multi-family use. Graham purchased the land in 1981 with the intent of building a manufactured home subdivision on the property. Back then, the only business north of the freeway was a service station. Now there is too much traffic and noise to make the area appealing for residential use.

When the Giant station opened (now Super American), Graham said he knew his property would not be suitable for residential.

“I didn’t object to that even though I knew what it’d do to our subdivision and our land,” he said. “Who wants to build a home with a backyard facing the diesel trucks running all night?”

Besides Graham, six residents spoke in favor of the land issues. Four people spoke during the period of rebuttal, but all said they did not object to the lot split and rezoning.

Jeff Hancock, who owns property next to Wal-Mart and the Ca-Ty Auto Sales was among those in favor.

“The sound of the trucks all day long is not good. The sound of the traffic from Wal-Mart is loud, but that’s good because that means there’s dollars coming into Winslow. But it’s also loud to multi-family,” he said. “I see nothing but good happening with businesses coming that way.”

Resident Greg Green said he had no financial interest in a Supercenter other than the increased retail shopping.

“I’d like to see the opportunity for commercial businesses to enter the area so that we can have more shopping opportunities,” he said.

The main opposition was to how the ordinances were presented. They included an emergency provision that would have made them effective immediately.

Downtown business owner Kate Whitty said she wanted the Council to wait on enacting the ordinances with the emergency clause.

“I wouldn’t want to them up from benefiting from the sale of their property, I would, however, request that something like this not be put in as an emergency measure if there are still significant issues that need to be considered by Council,” she said. “Please, please, please take your time and decide whether or not what is going to happen is in the best interest of all of the town.”

Council approved the reading of the ordinances without the emergency clauses.

Mayor Jim Boles said there were grounds to declare an emergency.

“ One of the things in the emergency clause is whether it’s for the health or general welfare. Starting construction earlier and bringing in additional sales taxes definitely could be construed as general welfare, but we felt that a matter of a month or six weeks would not be critical and because it was an emotional issue rather than have the appearance of trying to cram it down people’s throats, we felt the regular process would be the better approach,” he said.

A day later, councilwoman Maribelle Ogilvie said she thought the emergency clause was unnecessary.

“There was no need for an emergency. We just take things one at a time,” she said. “What we were dealing with was that land and it didn’t need to be an emergency. I think we do better when we take the normal course of time to make decisions.”

Maria “Bunny” Gamez has been the most outspoken opponent at Council meetings of a Supercenter.

“I don’t think (the rezone) is in the best interest in the community either because it is adjacent to agricultural and residential areas,” she said.

An informal survey of Winslow utility customers in December showed that 55.7-percent of those returning survey forms approve of the proposed Supercenter with 44.2-percent opposed and 8-percent undecided.

Snowdrift owner Dan Lutzick said the poll doesn’t prove residents are in overwhelming in favor of the larger store.

“Polls are open to debate,” he said. “We should all take it with a grain of salt.”

The ordinance will be read a second time, most likely at the next Council meeting scheduled for Feb. 8. Ordinances need to be published 15 days before taking affect.

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