Committee advances Walmart project to final vote

A city committee voted 3-2 on Tuesday to recommend the city give final approval to a proposed Walmart store on North Hill.

The Minot City Council’s Finance and Improvements Committee supported annexation of the property on second reading and a development agreement with Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust. The agreement provides that Wal-Mart will, at its own expense, turn the graveled Sunset Boulevard into a paved urban roadway between 21st Avenue and 19th Avenue Northwest. It will construct turn lane improvements at 21st Avenue at the entrance to its property, with a four-way traffic signal.

The agreement adds that Wal-Mart will construct turn-lane improvements at the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass and 21st Avenue, including a four-way traffic signal. For this improvement, the city will reimburse Wal-Mart 50 percent of the cost.

The committee gave its narrow approval to the controversial project without discussion. Voting for it were council members Lisa Olson, Mark Jantzer and Larry Frey. Opposed were Tom Seymour and Amy Moen. Bob Miller, a Walmart employee, abstained.

The Public Works and Safety Committee makes its recommendation on second reading of a zoning change from agricultural to commercial for the proposed Walmart development today. The 14-member council will need eight votes on Monday to approve the project’s needed changes on second and final reading.

Rachel Wall, senior manager of community affairs for Wal-Mart, Los Angeles, said this week that the company has made alterations to its initial plan and design to better address the concerns of its future neighbors.

The modifications include:

– Increasing the surrounding earth berm from six feet to 10 feet and adding additional evergreen trees and foliage to block the view of the store from the adjacent neighborhood. Truck docks will have masonry screen walls.

– Removing the entrance at 19th Avenue to discourage additional traffic adjacent to the residential neighborhood.

– Overnight parking will not be allowed.

– Upholding a strict no-idle policy for all Walmart trucks and vendor vehicles to prevent noise pollution.

– Funding all the street improvements necessary to accommodate increased traffic in the area.

“We want to be a good neighbor for decades to come and this is just part of that process,” Wall said.

She noted that the second Walmart in Minot will generate about 300 jobs at competitive wages, with benefits that include health coverage, retirement plans, career training and quarterly bonuses. For regular, full-time hourly associates, the average wage in North Dakota is $14.23.

The company also provided information showing:

– Wal-Mart collected more than $54.3 million in taxes and fees for the state last year and paid in an additional $6.1 million in company taxes.

– Wal-Mart spent nearly $43 million in North Dakota last year for merchandise and services supporting 11,728 supplier jobs, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

– Wal-Mart and the Walmart Foundation donated more than $3 million to local charitable and civic organizations that serve North Dakota. The retailer has donated more than 1.3 million pounds of food in North Dakota. Locally, it has partnered with Souris Valley United Way, the Salvation Army, Minot Family YMCA, numerous schools and other nonprofits in the area.