Friday, February 10, 2012

TOP STORY >> Council in Beebe to let in Walmart

Leader staff writer

Walmart is one step closer to building a supercenter in Beebe.

On Tuesday, the city council unanimously agreed to the planning and zoning commission recommendation to rezone 15.2 acres at 2003 W. Center St. from an R-1 single-family residential area to a C-2 commercial development.

The council will vote on the rezoning ordinance during its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.

About 40 people were in attendance at city hall, some voicing concerns about building a Walmart on the Hayes property along Center Street near Dewitt Henry Drive.

Little Rock real estate and municipal lawyer Stephen Giles, a consultant to Walmart, responded to questions during the meeting from the public and the commissioners.

Windwood subdivision residents Charles and Faye Moore opposed the rezoning request. The Walmart property will border residential properties in the area.

Charles Moore asked the planning and zoning commission to rezone less commercial property than has been requested.

Faye Moore said the Walmart will bring loiters and drug dealers near their backyard. She is concerned about noise from customers and semi-trucks unloading at all hours of the night.

She said the lights from the parking lot will illuminate their backyard, changing the living conditions.

Giles said Walmart will have many security cameras in place. The parking-lot lights will be directed downward and a perimeter fence will dissipate noise.

Faye Moore is worried water runoff from the parking lot will exacerbate flooding problems in the Windwood subdivision.

“Walmart will comply with runoff regulations,” Giles said.

Faye Moore is also concerned with pollution from the traffic and odors from garbage at the store.

The loading area, garbage and recycling dumpsters will be screened. Giles said there won’t be much odor. Walmart will not have rotting food in the receptacles around the store, he said.

“Why is it the building has to be sited near residential areas instead of closer to the street? Are we looking for additional development,” Faye Moore asked.

Jim McCoy of Ida was concerned about the protected migratory song bird population that roosts in the trees. Grackles, brown cowbirds and red-wing blackbirds make their home in the trees on the property.

He said the field is home to one-tenth of world’s red wing blackbirds. Displacing the birds could have a negative impact on the global population of the birds.

“Residential or commercial, it doesn’t matter. The thickets are going to go,” planning and zoning vice chairman Stanley Renneker said.

Giles said not many trees will be taken away. Walmart will try to retain some of the trees and bushes as a natural buffer between residential properties, he said.

Resident Joey Cook was unhappy that the city was voting on rezoning without having a site plan from Walmart.

“Can they do anything on it?” he asked.

Giles said Walmart is waiting on the outcome of the rezoning request before developing a site plan. He did not have a time frame from Walmart for building the store.

Resident Amanda Barton had concerns about safety. She said twice a day school traffic on West Center Street is “heavy.”

Giles said he will make the request for sidewalks along the property. He said it is Walmart policy to get along with its neighbors.

Walmart will pay for a traffic light and turning lanes to the store and develop frontage land.

Renneker, secretary Michael Westergren and members Doug Kennedy, Kevin Conner, Tony Ferguson voted yes to the rezoning request.

Robert Morrison voted no. Chairman Jason Scheel abstained.

Minutes later the council members all voted yes to the rezoning.

Aldermen John Johnson and Becky Short were absent.