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New Walmart again gets New Berlin support

Planning panel stands by its earlier recommendation

The current Walmart store at Moreland Road and National Avenue will close.

The current Walmart store at Moreland Road and National Avenue will close. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Aug. 13, 2013

New Berlin — After more than four hours of listening to people telling them why a proposed Walmart Supercenter should be voted down, the New Berlin Plan Commission stood by its original decision that the new store will be good for the city.

On Monday, the commission held a second public hearing on the proposal after opponents filed a lawsuit alleging that proper public notice wasn't given for the original hearing in January. In May, the commission voted 3-2 to change the city's 2020 Comprehensive Land Use Plan and change zoning from residential to shopping center to allow the proposed Walmart.

Zoning in on business

Key to the commission's approval was the belief that the land along Greenfield Avenue near Moorland Road would not be used for housing because it is so close to the busy Moorland Road/Greenfield Avenue intersection.

"Residential half-acre lots are never going to be built there," said commissioner Mark Mattes. The rezoning involves simply extending the commercial zoning beside the tract.

Further, most of the commission viewed the land-use plan as a guide rather than, as Walmart opponents argued, the voice of the people who helped create it.

Monday's vote was 5-1 to change the comprehensive plan and unanimous to change the zoning. The recommendations will go on to the Common Council on Aug. 27. Approval is expected.

Disappointed opposition

Commissioner Robert Rafel cast the only "no" vote, saying that for a number of reasons the proposed location is wrong. He said he also wants to spare the more than 600 trees that will be cut down for the building and its parking lot.

About 150 people packed the meeting and nearly all went away disappointed. Dozens of people spoke against the Walmart and only one person spoke for it.

"Seriously, I could start crying," said Linda Drall of Tiffany Place.

"I'm extremely let down," reacted Mary Hiebl of National Avenue. "They had a second chance to do it right."

Traffic concerns

Dennis Grzezinski, attorney for opponents organized into the group Neighbors First New Berlin, delivered one of the strongest arguments — that traffic, which is already bad at Greenfield and Moorland, would get much worse even with the traffic improvements Walmart is offering to make.

For example, the lines of cars waiting to turn left from Moorland Road that currently stretches 345 feet in the evening rush hour would extend 460 feet with the additional traffic from Walmart and businesses built in its outlots, Grzezinski said.

He said the group consulted with Traffic Engineering Services of Elm Grove, using Walmart's own traffic estimates.

But after the meeting, commissioner Brian Felda said he was more confident in the traffic studies that city staff, the state Department of Transportation, Waukesha County and Brookfield did. They all approved of the Walmart plans.

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