Walmart calls meeting with Bella Vista council

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 121 views 

Walmart Neighborhood Market #2763 and a four-pump gas station are among the proposed plans along U.S. 71 near Oldham Drive in Bella Vista.

Walmart spokesman Dan Morales said the retailer will present its proposed plan to Bella Vista City Council aldermen in a special work session scheduled at 4 p.m. on Wednesday (June 6) at Riordan Hall immediately following a special city council meeting set for 3:30.

Morales said it is Walmart’s desire to publicly discuss the traffic concerns recently raised by local residents who live along Oldham.

He said plans call for a proposed traffic light at the intersection as part of the solution, and the retailer has already obtained preliminary approval from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD).

Glenn Bolick, spokesman for the AHTD, said it’s not uncommon to give preliminary approval to a business or municipality. Before final approval is given, he said the state would likely conduct a traffic study before.

But before the big box titan can move forward, the Bella Vista City Council must approve a rezoning bid for 6.22 acres of residential meadow and woodlands now buffering the residential neighborhoods from a highly visible commercial district.

Walmart has a pending contract to purchase the land from Betty Garcia, an agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate and the registered owner. Garcia is represented by attorney Stephen Giles.

The deal hinges on the rezoning of 6.22 acres to be discussed by the city planning commission on June 11. It’s important to note that the city’s long term land-use plan already has the 6.22 acres designated for future commercial use.

It will be up to the aldermen and planning commission to figure out if a 41,000 square-feet commercial store and gas station with added traffic is in the best interest of the city and its residents.

Neighbors who live along Oldham have been busy circulating a petition against the rezoning efforts. To date, the group has collected about 2,000 signatures.

Wednesday’s meeting with Walmart comes of the heels of city council members being asked for individual meetings with Giles and Walmart last week. Of the seven alderman, five said they were contacted about individual meetings to discuss Walmart’s plans.

Last Thursday, Gisel Ruiz, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., told reporters in Rogers the retailer was looking to fill in stores across the country where there are gaps.

“We have several different formats we can use. Our first priority is a supercenter, then neighborhood markets and lastly the smaller express format,” Ruiz said.

The company plans to add between 210 and 235 units this year, that includes 100 new supercenters and between 80 to 100 smaller format neighborhood markets and express sites, according to Ruiz.

The company said it’s finding the earlier it works with a community to educate them on the benefits of partnering with Walmart the easier the process has become in getting stores approved in neighborhoods from south Chicago to small-town USA.

Harry Newby lives in the immediate neighborhood of the proposed store and fears the added traffic that a large retail venue will create.

He said Walmart won’t put a store in unless they can generate 1,000 to 2,000 cars a day.

Newby fears the bulk of those cars will come up and down Oldham, and a stop light will further increase traffic on Oldham and impede traffic flow on U.S. 71.

Last month the city council in Sioux Falls, S.D., rejected Walmart’s rezoning request that would have allowed the retailer to build a supercenter in a southeast Sioux Falls neighborhood. The major complaints were added traffic and drainage concerns.