Walmart is now in the zone for development in New Berlin
But concerned residents hope final plan delivers on key promises
New Berlin — With the 4-2 Common Council vote last week that clears a major roadblock to a proposal to build a Walmart Super Center, leaders of an opposition group which opposed the necessary rezoning said they are disappointed.
But the battle is not over.
"We definitely have concerns we want addressed," said Joselyn Bubolz, a leader of Neighbors First New Berlin.
Those concerns include not allowing the store to be open 24 hours, said Jenny Vellinga, a spokeswoman for Neighbors First. Among the many concerns the neighbors brought up since January are lights and noise from the proposed store that they don't want to operate all night.
Another major concern is that the store, which would be within a mile of Orchard Lane Elementary School, not be allowed to sell guns, Vellinga said. With the mass shootings nearby at the Sheraton Hotel a few years ago and at the Azana Spa only last year, gun sales at the Walmart would not be appropriate, Vellinga said.
The council's rezoning vote on May 14 followed nearly five months of negotiations and public meetings since the proposal was unveiled in December.
The city has received a request for building, site, landscaping and operational plan approval that could be on the Plan Commission agenda as early as July 1.
A Walmart Super Center, which would sell groceries as well as general merchandise, is proposed for 16 wooded acres on Greenfield Avenue about a block east of Moorland Road.
The area had been zoned mostly single-family and was designated as single-family and multi-family residential in the city's 2020 Comprehensive Plan approved in December 2009. Both the plan and zoning were changed with the 4-2 vote.
Voting for the rezoning were aldermen Dennis Horbinski, Ken Harenda, Laura Karvala and Joseph Stribl. Voting against were aldermen John Hopkins and Ron Seidl.
Horbinski said the vacant land to the west is already zoned commercial, so it was a matter of making a valuable commercial area larger. He also doubted that the site would see residential development anyway given the commercial zoning on one side, the existing stores across Greenfield Avenue on Brookfield's side and the cemetery behind the site on New Berlin's side.
On Walmart's dime
Walmart will be held to its promises that it will address residents' fears about flooding and traffic congestion, Horbinski said.
Those promises should solve two nagging problems that existed prior to Walmart's proposal.
Walmart would pay for stormwater measures that hopefully will prevent flooding in the area. It would also pay for improved traffic handling on Moorland Road and Greenfield Avenue, an intersection that has the sixth most traffic accidents in Waukesha County.
Harenda also noted that, in this way, the city will be able to reduce flooding without adding costs to residents. He also said more people contacting him wanted the Walmart than did not.
And that was a consideration for some on the council.
"We are a community that wants its taxes low," Karvala said.
Customers and critics
Karvala said she supported the rezoning after realizing how many people in her district shop at the Walmart in the New Berlin City Center. That store will be closed regardless of whether the Greenfield Avenue store is approved, Walmart officials have said.
To tell people to go shop at the Muskego Walmart doesn't make sense, Karvala said.
Stribl, who joined the council in April following the spring election, said he has met with many people on the Walmart controversy but has found far more support than opposition in his district.
In Hopkins' district, where the new Walmart would be located, the story was the opposite. A lot more are against it, Hopkins said, "I will respect their opinion."
Ignoring original plan
Joining him in also voting against the rezoning was Seidl, who said the city spent a lot of money and got a lot of feedback from residents on its comprehensive plan and there isn't enough reason to change it.
Neighborhood residents who strenuously opposed the rezoning and packed hearings and meetings criticized the rezoning for many reasons including the traffic it would generate. Some said the traffic analysis was incomplete saying that it failed to include the impact on neighborhoods beyond the intersection itself.
Others said the comprehensive plan clearly says areas that are zoned residential are to stay that way. They also argued that the 2020 plan indicates that big-box stores are the least desired type of commercial development for that area.
Some of the 120 or so people leaving the meeting probably felt betrayed like Donna Goodrich who helped with the two-year public input process that went into developing the comprehensive plan.
"I feel like I've been had," Goodrich said after the meeting.
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