A citizens group called The Hartford Citizens for Responsible Government (HCRG) has launched what one newspaper called “a massive attack” to block the building of a 184,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter on agricultural land in Hartford, Wisconsin. The group is getting legal help from Midwest Environmental Advocates, based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Residents have given city officials a position statement raising concerns about the impact the huge superstore would have on traffic and the Rubicon River. A site plan concept has been approved by the city, and the land has been annexed into Hartford. But the final site plan has not been approved. The Hartford Common Council will have the final vote on the plan. The HCRG’s memo to the city states that
“… the Hartford Plan Commission has a legal obligation to deny proposals that do not ‘promote the comfort, health, safety, morals, prosperity, and general welfare of the residents of the city of Hartford …Further, the commission must deny business developments… that are not compatible with the residential character of the city.” Residents want the applicant to produce a more thorough traffic study that goes beyond just the intersections immediately abutting the store site. The HCRG also charges that Wal-Mart has not proposed idling restrictions on its trucks, and that truck and car traffic to the store will worsen Hartford’s ozone problems. Further environmental issues include stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces into the Rubicon river, something on the order of 600,000 gallons in just a one-inch rainstorm. “Polluted dirt and salt is swept away during rainfalls and ultimately discharged directly into the Rubicon River,” which would “… discharge an estimated 4,354 pounds of polluted sediment into the Rubicon each year.” The citizens group wants Wal-Mart to mitigate these impacts by using a “green roof,” and take measures to reduce pollutants in the parking lot, like oil and grease separators, and no deicing salt in the parking lot.
The measures proposed by HCRG are environmentally simple for Wal-Mart to comply with, and these are the kind of changes that the retailer is happy to comply with — as long as they get their store. Complaints about incompatibility with the character of the community, or scaling back the size of their store, are likely to encounter more opposition from the company. But if the city insists on these conditions as part of a developer’s agreement, they could get a smaller store — a more environmentally-friendly store — but a Wal-Mart nonetheless. In the minds of city officials, it appears that the die is cast, and they have already crossed their Rubicon.