The city of St. Charles, Illinois (pop. 31,834) is “just one hour west of Chicago.” The city has a Downtown St. Charles Partnership, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of Downtown St. Charles. The city’s planning goal is to “preserve our unique character as a dynamic, prosperous city, maintaining the small town charm, the natural beauty of the Fox Valley… that make St. Charles distinct. Our historic downtown is the heart of the community, and keeping it healthy and vibrant is essential.” The city also has estimated consumer spending of $1.35 billion a year. It is that figure which attracted Wal-Mart to St.Charles — not its “unique character.” Sprawl-Busters reported on February 6, 2007, that Wal-Mart had proposed a 226,000 s.f. superstore that had area residents upset. The project, they said, would generate too many cars, hurt residential property values, and ruin their quality of life. They noted that the new supercenter would result in an empty Wal-Mart discount store located nearby at Route 64. But in February, the St. Charles alderman paved over Wal-Mart’s plans by voting to negotiate to buy roughly 3 acres of land that would block the supercenter from being built. The city said they needed the land to connect two roads — and the road they want to build falls right where Wal-Mart proposes to locate. The city said the move was not an effort to stop Wal-Mart, but part of the city’s comprehensive plan to connect Smith Road with Foxfield Drive. Improving traffic circulation had been identified as a high-priority goal by the city. The new road would divide the Wal-Mart parcel in half. If the deal went through, Wal-Mart would not be able to relocate to the supercenter. Last night, the Daily Herald newspaper reports, about 20 St. Charles residents cheered when officials voted to scrap plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the city’s east side. The 7-0 decision by plan commissioners ended more than a year of debate over the development, which was proposed for 30 acres northwest of the Route 64-Smith Road intersection. The city’s attorneys told officials to abandon the project because Wal-Mart no longer has an option to buy the land. Wal-Mart representatives were not at last night’s meeting to respond, but the company was told weeks ago that the city planned to end the project, and “did not respond except to communicate to our attorney that they have no response,” according to city officials. One neighbor of the project told the Daily Herald his neighborhood would be “elated” over the city’s decision. “That piece of property is just absolutely the worst place to put a store,” he said.
The city still has not concluded its plan to buy 2.88 acres of the property using eminent domain to construct a street connecting Foxfield Drive and Smith Road. A court hearing over that issue was continued Tuesday without resolution. The residents in St. Charles can rest easier today knowing that this particular site will not be a huge superstore. If they are addicted to Wal-Mart, they still have 12 Wal-Mart stores within 15 miles of their city, including a superstore in Oswego, Illinois, and a Wal-Mart on Smith Road right in St.Charles. To congratulate the St.Charles Plan Commission for cutting off the oxygen to this project, email the Commission’s staff person, Colleen Johnson, at: [email protected]