City Commission To Wal-Mart: One Year Not Enough, Go Back To Work

Editorial

By Jon A. Brake

Need a new stop light in your neighborhood? Stop signs? How about new yellow no parking areas around your driveway? If you have a project just send your request to the City Staff and they will add it to the Wal-Mart bill. As it stands now the Wal-Mart project will cost $6,088,208.00.

If you takeout the non-Wal-Mart items the bill is $2.3 million and Wal-Mart is willing to pay $1 million.

The Store Wars site on the internet tells how to fight Wal-Mart and one of the ideas is to add other projects that will run up the bill and many times Wal-Mart will agree to pay just to get a building permit.

This is apparently what the City staff has done. The staff added $2.7 million worth of projects on the west side of Tuttle Creek Blvd. with the hopes of getting Wal-Mart to pay a large share.

The "Downtown Tomorrow" report came out in January 2000 and talked about a 4th Street Corridor. This would turn 4th street into a main street to downtown from Bluemont. The start of the 4th Street Corridor would be the signalization of 4th and Bluemont.

That and several other "Corridor" projects were thrown into the Wal-Mart bill.

Tuesday night the City Commission and Wal-Mart representatives met in a work session that ran five hours.

In the end the Commissioners told the Staff that the project was too large with the west-side items and they should be removed. The City of Manhattan is $70 million in debt and this would have added another $5 million.

The Commissioners agreed that City could transfer the City owned water detention area west of the America Legion. They said they wanted an appraisal to find out what the property is worth.

The Commission also thought a new detention would need to be built with Wal-Mart paying the bill.

The Commission also said they did not want to use eminent domain to acquire frontage road relocation land.

Here are the issues as outlined by staff:

ISSUES REGARDING PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT

AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY AND WAL-MART

I. TRANSFER OF PUBLIC PROPERTY TO FACILITATE THE WAL-MART DEVELOPMENT.

a. Wal-Martís proposal, as shown at paragraph 2Ciii thereof, is for the City to convey to them, at no cost, the existing detention area owned by the City, located at the southeast corner of McCall Rd. Wal-Mart has contended with City staff, that such a donation of land is appropriate because they are dedicating the area needed for the extension of Bluemont Ave., and the expansion of Hayes and McCall roads. City staff would point out that it is normal for developments to dedicate the right-of-way, within their own property, necessary to accommodate the development. A decision needs to be made whether or not the City is willing to donate the land owned by the City, as proposed by Wal-Mart.

i. If a transfer of the detention area is approved, whether or not it is done at no cost to Wal-Mart, we need to determine who pays the cost of completing the legal and administrative matters necessary to accomplish this transfer.

ii. If the transfer of the detention area is approved, we need to decide whether or not our agreement with Wal-Mart protects the rights of 3rd parties, such as the American Legion and/or Ace Hardware. It is our understanding that a portion of the detention area is intended to be used for these other parties; however, if we are making sure their interests are protected, we will need to make sure our agreement with Wal-Mart addresses those issues.

iii. If a transfer of the detention area is approved, we need to know whether or not such a transfer should contain restrictions on future use of the land, regardless of who the owner, or user, is; whether or not there are any restrictions on the owner, regardless of who that is, being able to sell the land at a profit without sharing with the City; and, whether or not there are requirements as to a rezoning of the property.

b. Wal-Martís proposal, as shown at paragraph 2Cii thereof, is for the City to acquire some right-of-way from KDOT and to then transfer that ROW to Wal-Mart. While there doesnít appear to be an issue regarding whether or not we should do this, there are issues involving who should be responsible for the cost and effort to accomplish this transaction, and whether or not there should be restrictions and rezoning considerations involving this tract, just like in (a)(iii) above.

c. There may be environmental issues involving the public property, proposed to be transferred to Wal-Mart. It needs to be resolved as to who is responsible for addressing these issues.

II. RELOCATION/REPLACEMENT OF STORM WATER DETENTION AREA.

a. Wal-Mart proposes the acquisition of the Cityís storm water detention area at the southeast corner of McCall (see issue #1). If this acquisition is approved it will eliminate a significant portion of the storm water detention area, actually designed for such purpose, in this area of the community. A decision needs to be made whether, or not, to replace this detention capability. It can be replaced on City owned property, located just north of McCall Rd. If the decision is made to replace the detention area, a decision needs to be made as to who is going to pay the cost of constructing this facility.

III. UTILITY RELOCATION.

There are numerous utilities that exist upon the Wal-Mart site, and also in close proximity thereto. These utilities are both City owned, as well as other private/public utilities, such as telephone, power and cable TV. In many instances these utilities will need to be relocated to facilitate the Wal-Mart development. City Administration intends to require that Wal-Mart be responsible for all costs, and all administrative work, regarding the relocation of any utility, which is necessitated because of the development.

IV. EFFECT OF WAL-MART PROPOSAL ON ADJACENT PRIVATE PROPERTY, RELATED TO PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY AND ACCESS THERETO.

a. Wal-Martís proposal relocates a portion of the public frontage road, which is currently located in front of the existing Wal-Mart. This relocation, as proposed, requires the acquisition of a portion of the existing Wal-Mart site from the owner (AWPM, LLC). Wal-Mart has been unsuccessful in negotiating this acquisition. A decision needs to be made as to whether, or not, the City is willing to exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire the property necessary to relocate the frontage road. In addition, if this acquisition occurs, the agreement needs to address who is responsible for all of the cost involved in such an acquisition. Such costs would include the cost of the purchase as well as the legal and administrative costs involved.

b. If the frontage road is relocated, as per above, the cost of curing the removal of the old frontage road also needs to be addressed. Since much of the frontage road is being abandoned, or relocated, throughout this project, the entire cure to address such removal needs to be addressed as well.

c. The existing Wal-Mart property has an access onto Hayes Drive that will conflict, because of its close proximity, with the new intersection of Bluemont and Hayes. Because of this conflict, such access needs to be restricted. The City may also have to use its power of eminent domain to cause these restrictions, if they cannot be negotiated. A decision needs to be made about the Cityís willingness to use such power, and also a resolution of who pays for the costs involved in this process.

d. Wal-Martís proposal may require access points from McCall/Frontage Road to be constructed for the proposed American Legion parking lot and the Ace Hardware property. We need to address the issue of who pays for such construction.

e. Wal-Martís proposal may require the relocation of entrances to properties on the east side of Hayes Dr., which are close to the Bluemont/Hayes intersection. Just how the relocations are handled needs to be addressed. In other words, is the City willing to use its power of eminent domain, if necessary, and who is responsible for the costs involved.

V. TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS AND THE SHARING OF COSTS FOR SUCH IMPROVEMENTS.

a. There are numerous traffic improvements that are "must haves", and are required to facilitate the development of the Wal-Mart proposal. These traffic improvements have been identified as a result of a traffic report and analysis conducted by traffic engineers, employed by both Wal-Mart and the City. In addition, KDOTís engineering staff, as well as the Cityís engineering staff, have reviewed this report and analysis and both staffs concur with the findings and recommendations. This report and analysis envisions certain improvements occurring at the intersection of 3rd and Bluemont. At its meeting on April 2, 2002, the Commission directed City Administration to begin the process of exploring other alternatives to the improvements at the intersection of 3rd and Bluemont. If this process develops an acceptable improvement to that intersection, not envisioned by the current report and analysis, it may affect the balance of the recommended improvements. The improvements recommended by the report and analysis include, but are not limited to: the improvement of Bluemont from Tuttle Creek Blvd. (TCB), west to 4th street, including the signals and other traffic control devices; the improvement of the intersection of TCB and Bluemont; the improvement of TCB from Bluemont to McCall; the improvement of McCall from TCB along the northern edge of the development; the construction of Bluemont from TCB to Hayes; the improvement of the relocated frontage road; the widening of Hayes, McCall and Sarber Ln; and, the various signals and other traffic control devices associated with all such projects. The cost of all of these improvements is difficult to estimate, without more specific designs; however, City Administrationís current rough estimate is approximately $6 million. A decision needs to be made as to how this cost will be financed and what parties share in such cost, and to what extent they share.

VI. TIMING OF PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS.

It is important that a clear decision is made as to whether, or not, the City is going to require that the timing of public improvements be such that they are completed before the Wal-Mart development is allowed to open.

VII. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS.

a. Many of the issues raised above have financial implications associated with them. Wal-Mart has proposed to contribute the total sum of $1 million as their share of all of these costs. Wal-Mart has indicated a willingness to participate in benefit districts to finance the traffic improvements; however, they have indicated that their financial contribution would be limited to a total of $1 million, whether that sum is used totally in the benefit districts, or used partially in the benefit districts and partially in the other financial matters. The City Commission needs to decide whether, or not, this is an acceptable sharing of the costs of all of these matters.

b. In assessing the financial implications associated with this project, it is necessary to estimate the various revenues from property taxes and sales taxes that will result from the project. It is relatively easy to estimate the additional property taxes that will occur as a result of the construction of new facilities; however, estimating whether, or not, the City will realize new sales taxes as a result of the project is more difficult. The City Commission will be asked to review Administrationís analysis of the revenue impacts of this project and to either agree with that analysis, or provide direction as to how it should be modified.