Planning commission OKs Walmart plans

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Arvada Planning Commission passed a recommendation June 4 for City Council to approve the redevelopment of Arvada Plaza, which includes a Walmart.

The action passed 5-1-1. Planning Commission vice chairman John Sullivan was absent and excused from the meeting; secretary David Goff voted against the motion. Goff said the issue has to go to council before he can express his opinion regarding the issue.

The preliminary development plan of Wal-Mart has been proposed by Arvada Plaza property owner Industrial Realty Group. The plans include a 138,000-square-foot Walmart store, 22,000 square-feet of multi-tenant retail space and a new U.S. Bank facility with a drive-thru. Santiagos and KFC/Taco Bell would stay in place.

During the public hearing, the first regarding the redevelopment of Arvada Plaza, 10 people spoke in favor and 28 opposed. Additional citizens went on the record but did not wish to speak. More than a dozen people noted they are in favor, more than 90 opposed and six listed unsure.

Citizens expressed a variety of concerns about redeveloping the Arvada Plaza with a Walmart store, including the impact on traffic, the futures of local “mom and pop” stores, the possibility of increased crime, the effect it could have on the character of Arvada and the business ethics of the company.

“This is the heart of Arvada,” said Arvada resident Emily Klopstein during public testimony on June 4. “To me, the heart of Arvada is not a place for a Walmart. Arvadans are incredibly proud. Everyone here came because they are proud to be an Arvada, however, Walmart does not represent us … there’s no lack of Walmarts. Adding one is not going to add to the quality of life of Arvada.”

Chris McGranahan, a principal with LSC Transportation Consultants, said though the store will generate about 6,000 additional trips down Ralston Road, the trips will not be all at once nor will they all be headed in the same direction.

Hazel Hartbarger, director of the Arvada Economic Development Association, said AEDA is available to work with the 36 stores in the Arvada Plaza that would be affected by the new Walmart and some have already relocated. Hartbarger spoke with the owners of 25 of those businesses March 25 to let them know about the plans, what assistance AEDA can provide and to let them know AEDA supports them, she said.

One of those local business owners, Dave Barhite of Arvada Vacuum, testified that he supports the redevelopment of the Arvada Plaza and a new Walmart store.

“I’m in favor of revitalizing it,” Barhite said during the public hearing. “We’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, and sometime, when you’re standing so close to something, you don’t see what’s going on. Ten years ago when (Arvada Plaza) was called a blight, it really offended me. After stepping back and beginning to look, the center is dying. It really needs help and it will help Arvada to have a quality anchor like Walmart coming in there that we can depend on that isn’t going to go away, and they’ll maintain a great area for us.”

He said Walmart would be good for business in the area and the plan aligns with zoning for the area.

Deborah Herron, a public affairs representative with Walmart, said an anchor store like Walmart can actually help bring in other businesses around the area. Herron said, in response to concerns about the business ethics of the company, that wages and health-care plans for employees meet or exceed those of Walmart’s competitors, and that the company provides job opportunities for everyone.

Residents also questioned what tax incentives were given to IRG or Walmart.

“When IRG purchased the center in 2007, we encouraged them to buy the center because they’re a quality developer, and we told them we would help them with some of the public improvements,” said Maureen Phair, executive director of Arvada Urban Renewal Authority. “The center has a lot of environmental issues. There’s going to be the cost of demolition, they’re burying the overhead powerlines — there’s all kinds of improvements they’re going to do to the area.”

The funds for these improvements are not coming from the city’s general fund though, Phair said.

“This money will come from the money Walmart produces,” Phair said. “We will take the money Walmart will produce, and we will rebate that back to the developer, not to Walmart, but to (IRG) to help with those infrastructure costs.”

The rebate amount is still being negotiated, but AURA will have a number available as part of public information by the July 15 City Council public hearing regarding the development.

To recommend the project to City Council, the Planning Commission was tasked with deciding whether or not the preliminary development plan meets the nine criteria of the Land Development Code, and in a vote of 5-1-1, the commission found that it did. A few of the plans, including parking lot setback, did not meet the Land Development Code requirements, but city staff found Walmart’s plans to accommodate the difference acceptable. To accommodate the parking lot setback, Walmart will put in additional streetscape and landscaping to accommodate the parking lot being closer to the street than required.

“It’s important to recognize the physical development is consistent with the plans and desires of what’s been proposed — a large retail operation — and that needs to be separated from any angst that there is with who may occupy the space,” said Commissioner Ed Rothschild. “I think there’s a lot of good things going on and this will benefit the community. This is the first piece of a much larger development. There’s a lot going on in that neighborhood that will support smaller retail and mixed-use development on both sides of the road.”

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