Wednesday, December 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Residents not happy with store

Leader staff writer

Back in a September meeting at the Harmon Recreation Center, a Wal-Mart official said the company had already spent too much money on the design of the Supercenter it was constructing off Maryland Avenue and Hwy. 107 and would not build a fence to separate the store property from the neighborhood to the south even though city regulations required the fencing.
Now the residents south of the construction site are asking for an injunction against the retailer.

The group of residents from the Tiffany Circle and Katye Lane area, led by Ben and Karrie Rounsaville, presented a letter recently to all the aldermen and the city engineer calling for the city to step up and have the retailer follow city ordinances.
City Engineer Mike Clayton said the letter from Rounsaville was premature because construction is not yet complete.

“At the time construction is complete, outstanding issues will be dealt with,” Clayton said. He said Wal-Mart is aware of the ordinance and they will follow all requirements of the city.

Clayton added that while a facility is under construction, the city does not normally enforce the landscaping ordinance. “It’s too early to assume Wal-Mart will not be doing the fence.”

In the letter from the concerned citizens of the Highland Hills neighborhood Rounsaville states, “We are concerned about the future invasion of our privacy, security of our properties and the economic values of our homes because of commercial development in the immediate area; without any concern for our established neighborhood being a vital part of the city of Sherwood.”

The neighborhood group is asking the city for an injunction against the retailer if the company doesn’t comply with the requirements of a fence.

“We are requesting enforcement (of the ordinances) and notification that a certificate of occupancy will not be issued until there is an opaque wall or fence erected,” the letter states.

Wal-Mart spokesman Laura Smiley told more than 50 residents at the September meeting that the company was not going to be able to put up a wall. “I know that doesn’t make you happy. But we cannot do that,” she said.

After most of the people left the meeting, Smiley and other company officials backed off and said they would see what could be done. They promised to keep in touch with Mayor Virginia Hillman and work out something.

They did call the mayor and offered to put in more landscaping in the form of trees and bushes, but no fence.

Rounsaville, who lives on Katye Lane, tried to explain in September to Smiley, two lawyers, a market manager, the construction manager and the engineer that residents want a wall for security and privacy.

“We’ve endured the dirt, the blasting, the noise and all we are asking for is this wall,” he said.

Construction has continued and the neighbors have continued to endure the mess, but are still demanding a wall or fence.
Alderman Becki Vassar suggested it would be best to try to work with Wal-Mart rather than give them an ultimatum. She added that Wal-Mart would abide by the city’s written ordinances. “If it is in the city rules and regulations they will follow them just like anyone else,” Vassar said.

The Rounsavilles were on the agenda for the December planning commission meeting to continue to voice their concerns, but they did not make the meeting.