Council rejects Walmart plan

There will be no Walmart on North Hill as proposed along 21st Avenue Northwest.

The Minot City Council voted 7-6 with one abstention to approve the zoning and annexation, but that fell one vote short of the necessary majority to pass the ordinances.

Several residents dead set against a Walmart in their neighborhood asked the council to reject the store.

“We are not opposed to growth on North Hill,” said neighbor Mark Brown with North Hill Residents for Smart Growth. “What we are opposed to is any business that will introduce 40,000 to 50,000 cars to our two-lane roads in our neighborhood.”

Brady Busselman, civil engineer for Wal-Mart, said the store would draw 10,000 vehicles a day. City engineer Lance Meyer said most of the traffic is expected to use the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass rather than residential streets, although neighbors disagreed and cited the traffic as a primary reason for opposing the store.

Neighbors also were concerned about security. Brown cited the 1,100 police calls in two years to the south Walmart. He also voiced concern about safety issues at the intersection of 21st Avenue and the Highway 83 Bypass once a traffic signal is installed in conjunction with the Walmart construction.

“The city is in a position where we can develop North Hill smartly,” he said. “We simply believe we live in a great neighborhood and we should develop smartly.”

Attorney Dick Olson, representing the neighborhood group, outlined resident concerns about inadequate capacity on 21st Street to handle the traffic, the spot annexation that creates an island and the lack of land dedication for a future interchange at 21st Street and the bypass.

“This is not the right location,” he said, indicating that smaller commercial development, such as banks and restaurants, are more suited to property that is next to single-family homes.

The only neighborhood support came from Dennis Smetana, who noted the economic benefit to the city and to the charitable causes that Walmart supports.

“I am appreciative of them considering building on North Hill, no matter where they go, but this is a prime location,” Smetana said.

Voting for the Walmart annexation and rezoning on second and final reading of the ordinances were council members Mark Jantzer, Blake Krabseth, Dave Lehner, Kevin Connole, Larry Frey, Jim Hatlelid and Lisa Olson. Olson attended by conference call. Voting against were Scott Knudsvig, Milt Miller, Amy Moen, Tom Seymour, George Withus and Dean Frantsvog. Bob Miller, a Walmart employee, abstained.

The council had approved the Walmart project 8-5 on the first reading of the ordinances at its June meeting. Changing their votes on second reading to reject the ordinances were Seymour and Knudsvig. Hesitating slightly before casting his vote, Jantzer switched from opposition to support.

In other business, the council also rejected a residential and commercial development at the city’s north entrance at Broadway and the Highway 83 Bypass. Developers brought forward their project despite a planning commission decision to put it on hold.

The council voted 5-9 to deny a variance that would have allowed a higher density than allowed under both the current zoning ordinance and a new zoning ordinance yet to take effect.

J2 Ventures International of San Diego, Calif., proposes a five-story building with retail on the ground floor and 132 residential units above. The number of units exceed the 40 that would be allowed under the existing ordinance’s density restrictions and 67 units under the new ordinance.

The council also rejected bids on two proposed downtown parking structures. Bids came in more than twice as high as anticipated.

The city plans to re-advertise for bids on Friday. However, the advertisement will be for slightly smaller structures. Initially, the developer planned to reduce each of the 249-stall parking structures by 37 spaces as part of eliminating some expensive excavation and support structures. A second look at the redesign, though, has led the developer to propose a reduction of only 24 spaces per structure, leaving 450 parking spots compared to the current 257 spots.

The parking structures will accommodate public parking as well as parking for new residential complexes proposed as part of downtown’s Imagine Minot development.

The council did not act on a recommendation of the Community Development Committee for distribution of Community Facilities sales tax dollars to the Minot YMCA, Minot Curling Club, Minot Commission on Aging, Bishop Ryan Catholic School and the Minot Park District for Hammond Park, Maysa Arena expansion and softball fields. Due to missed publication of public hearings, the city postponed action until a special meeting July 22 at 4:15 in City Hall.

Shane Goettle, the city’s legislative lobbyist with Odney, presented a wrap-up on the session, which should bring more than $14 million in energy-related funding to Minot during the next two years. In addition, the city could get $25 million for airport improvements. The Legislature also approved $61 million for buyouts and engineering for a flood protection project and $14 million for the Northwest Area Water Supply project.