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Residents speak out against New Berlin Walmart

Supercenter proposed for Greenfield Avenue

Jan. 8, 2013

New Berlin - During three hours of speakers giving opinions to the New Berlin Plan Commission about a Walmart supercenter proposed for 15205-15375 W. Greenfield Ave., not one person favored it.

There were at least four recurring themes. One was that traffic is already bad there while another focused on worry that the area already has flooding problems and adding a big store with a big parking lot has the potential of making things worse. And even though the nearest subdivisions are some distance away, many complained about the lights that would be on 24-hours a day seven days a week and the noise of cars and trucks going in and out. Increased crime also was brought up as a concern.

The Plan Commission held the hearing because Walmart needs a rezoning. It also needs a change in the city's land use plan. The Plan Commission will vote on whether to recommend the changes at its Feb. 4 meeting.

The supercenter is proposed for land about a block east of Moorland Road where the zoning for all but the Charcoal Grill restaurant is for single-family homes. Walmart is asking for B-1 zoning for the entire 15-acre tract, including the restaurant which already has a different type of business zoning. The Charcoal Grill would be torn down as would a home that is set far back from the road.

While zoning is single-family, the city's comprehensive land use plan calls for some multifamily residential as well, except for the Charcoal Grill site.

Even so, business zoning is appropriate, given the city's plan to have business at the corner of Greenfield and Moorland Avenue and because Brookfield has a lot of commercial development just across the street, argued attorney Deborah Tomczyk, representing Walmart.

"This corridor is already a commercial corridor," Tomczyk said.

But all that was known only three years ago when New Berlin adopted the citywide comprehensive plan after two years of study with neighborhood meetings and surveys, pointed out Mary Hiebel.

"What's changed?" since the city decided on residential uses for nearly all that land only three years ago, she asked

Now the city has a development proposal that it needs to hash out, said Greg Kessler, director of community development.

Traffic was a thorny issue, especially since Kessler confirmed that Greenfield and Moorland cannot take the Walmart traffic. But he said, Walmart officials are working with the state Department of Transportation to improve the intersection so that it would be able to take on more traffic.

While Walmart's traffic studies are not finished, the supercenter would add 5 percent to the traffic that's already there, Tomczyk said.

But when the total number of cars is in the thousands, 5 percent more is still a lot of cars, one neighbor said.

Not only that, the Walmart traffic studies may not take into account the additional traffic that would be generated by a hotel and waterpark already approved for that intersection, Kessler acknowledged. Neither does it focus on how streets farther away will be impacted. Sunnyslope Road, for example, is strangled already at rush hours, one woman said.

What should have been good news for those with flooding problems in the area was greeted with skepticism. Tomczyk said runoff during storms would actually be less with the store than it is right now with woods. That's because the plan is to hold rainwater below ground and release it after the storms into storm sewer under Greenfield Avenue and then west to Deer Creek.

However, it was unclear how big a storm that system could handle. Would it work well in a big storm where the runoff would be substantial from a big building and a big parking lot?

Some residents who live west of the site said they already have flooding problems and don't want to take the chance.

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