Shawnee Dispatch

Walmart gets green light, says it's ready to go this time

May 22, 2012

A scaled-down Walmart Supercenter planned for western Shawnee is expected to open by the end of 2013, a project architect said during the Shawnee Planning Commission’s consideration of a revised site plan for the store Monday evening.

The commission voted 8-0 to approve the plan, allowing construction to begin on a 147,848-square-foot Walmart near the southeast corner of Johnson Drive and Kansas Highway 7.

“It’s a nine-month building process,” Bill Boyden of BRR Architecture Inc. said, and construction could begin as early as this fall and as late as next March.

Boyden was addressing Planning Commissioner Nick Pflumm’s concern that approval of the plan might represent just another false start.

“We started this in 2006, and every year something happens,” Pflumm said.

In 2007, the Planning Commission approved a 195,906-square-foot Walmart for the site. But some residents of the neighboring Grey Oaks subdivision triggered the first delay by filing suit against the city and the developer of the Walmart site. The lawsuit was subsequently dropped against Rodrock Development and won by the city.

But highway improvements and recession delayed the project, which the Planning Commission reaffirmed in 2009, after an earlier downsizing to 176,305 square feet.

No one spoke against the further-scaled-back Walmart during Monday’s meeting, prompting project attorney Mark Bryant of White Goss Bowers March Schulte & Weisenfels PC to suggest that public opinion regarding the world’s largest retailer has shifted.

“What typically happens now in urban areas is that Walmarts are welcomed with open arms, greeted with encouragement and approved expeditiously,” Bryant said after the meeting.

But letters to the Planning Commission from three neighbors served as evidence that not everyone has been won over by the project.

A letter from Jeff White, one of the plaintiffs in the 2007 lawsuit, urged the commission to delay approval long enough to re-evaluate retail market conditions.

“I appreciate that Walmart recognizes ... that a 200,000-square-foot behemoth does not belong in Grey Oaks,” White wrote. “Respectfully, I submit to you that a reasoned analysis of the existing conditions and trends in future growth will lead to the conclusion that a 150,000-square-foot retail outlet is also significantly too large for this location.”

Christopher Lehan, another neighbor, wrote that the revised plan did not comply with a city requirement that new buildings be “in proportion and scale with existing structures and spaces in the surrounding area.”

“To meet the requirements ... the size of the proposed Walmart needs to be reduced dramatically, ideally to the size of a Neighborhood Walmart,” Lehan wrote. “This style of store, which is typically 42,000 square feet in size, would be more consistent with structures in the surrounding area.”

Catherine Wood’s letter added that “the concept of a big box with a ring road is long outdated” and that the Supercenter plan ignores trends toward “main street” retail development.

Commissioner Wendy Hageman asked whether the new Walmart made sense given how close it is to the existing Supercenter at 16100 W. 65th St., which is a six-mile drive away.

Bryant responded that Walmart’s recent demographic studies indicate “the store will be supported.”

In other action, the commission:

• Approved placement of a temporary modular office unit behind the Southern Star Central Pipeline Co. building at 8195 Cole Parkway for one year, with a possible one-year extension. The company recently closed an office in Lenexa and needs space to accommodate employees while it considers permanent options, including an addition to its Shawnee site. Dennis Busby cast the lone no vote

• Waived a final-plat condition requiring Shawnee Community Services to improve Barton Road adjacent to 11110 W. 67th St., where the agency operates and is preparing to build a larger structure. Staff recommended pursuing 2013 Community Development Block Grant funding for the roughly $75,000 in road improvements. If CDBG funds are not approved, the improvements would not be made and Barton Street would remain part of the city’s street maintenance program.

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