Walmart conversation continues

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There were a range of emotions in the room when members of the Westons Homeowners Association sat down to meet with Walmart representatives on Dec. 11.

Most attendees expressed concern with the proposed store, which would be located on Michigan Road, north of 106th Street. One local condominium owner stormed out after learning the proposed store would be open 24 hours. She exclaimed before departing, “The quality of life you’re creating is horrible. The noise, deliveries, garbage trucks … You people don’t live here.”

David Reitnauer, Walmart regional general manager, vice president, along with Joseph Calderon, Walmart’s real estate zoning attorney, kicked off a lively discussion that lasted over an hour and touched on topics such as aesthetics of the building, traffic, tax revenue, and neighborhood/community impact, just to name a few.

A repeated topic of discussion regarded the proximity to the 86th Street store, just two miles away, along with the distinction of the store’s proposed products.

“(I-)465 creates a traffic barrier. There is a different customer base and different merchandise,” Reitnauer explained. “There are no plans to close that store. We just completed a $4-million remodel,” he said.

The new store would be distinct from the 86th Street location featuring upscale items, “more organic, more premium items, locally grown, more tailored, geared to Zionsville clientele,” Reitnauer said.

Representatives also discussed the remaining hurdles, future meetings in Carmel and two more meetings in Zionsville, Jan. 8th with the Zionsville Board of Zoning Appeals and Jan. 22 with the Zionsville Plan Commission. If approved, construction of the new Walmart could begin in 2013.

The biggest obstacle is the approval of a variance to the “Big Box” ordinance which restricts retail establishments in Zionsville to 125,000 square feet. The proposed Walmart, originally designed at 300,000 square feet, is now 156,621 square feet, which is more than over the allowance. When asked by a homeowner what would happen if the variance was not approved, Reitnauer, a 20-year Walmart employee and three-year Zionsville resident responded, “We’re committed to the site and the store. We’ve held onto the land for six years. We feel we’ve met the requirements.”

However, it appears that Walmart has a backup plan, just in case. “We have a 120,000-square-foot-store plan but it would be disappointing to the customer, with fewer selections,” he said.

The decision on the size and future of Zionsville’s Walmart will be made in January.

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