On May 6, 2006, Sprawl-Busters narrated the story of residents in Apple Valley, Minnesota who were fighting a developer, Tradition, who had proposed building a SuperTarget in their neighborhood in the Cobblestone Lake development. The city of Apple Valley has roughly 55,000 residents, and already had a SuperTarget in the city, 2 miles from the site of the proposed second Super Target. Neighbors raised concerns about noise and the location of loading docks. The proposal was the company’s third in as many years. Apple Valley ended up with two super Targets, and now another big box wants to expand its footprint. According to the Pioneer Press, Wal-Mart has targeted Apple Valley for a discount store expansion into a supercenter. The same issues that came up with the super Targets are surfacing again. City Council member John Bergman told the newspaper that neighbors are worried about noise and expanded loading docks that come with a bigger store. But Bergman, it appears, is already prepared to compromise. He told the Press that he will to vote for the expansion if the loading docks are moved. “I hope they work with the community and come up with something. If the loading docks don’t move, my vote will be not for expansion.” Bergman said. For neighbors, Wal-Mart has returned from the dead. In 2006, the Arkansas-based retailer pulled the plug on its proposal in the face of strong community opposition. The following year, in 2007, Wal-Mart turned up again with a new plan that moved its loading docks from the west side of the structure, to the east side. That proposal was ultimately approved by the City Council. But last week, Wal-Mart submitted a third version of its supercenter — this time 16,600 s.f. smaller, but with the loading docks back on the west side. Neighors of the current Wal-Mart discount store at 150th Street west, say delivery trucks are currently keeping them up at night. Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland has asked Wal-Mart to change their truck delivery times to cease at 10 pm, and start up again at 6 am. Wal-Mart said they could control their own trucks, but not necessarily the delivery trucks owned by their vendors. Wal-Mart hired an “independent” noise consultant to demonstrate that the expanded store would not increase the noise. Wal-Mart claims that noise walls will make the noise levels acceptable. That satisfied Council member Tom Goodwin, who was quoted as saying, “We already have a loading dock in the neighborhood. It’s already there. This is a quieter solution. It would be quieter than it is now.” The City Council will take up the expanded Wal-Mart proposal on October 9th.
Council members told the media that they have been receiving calls from Apple Valley residents supporting the new store. “We have a lot of people that have called and supported an expanded Wal-Mart, because times are tough,” Mayor Hamann-Roland said. Since the 1960s, Apple Valley has grown from a rural community with 585 residents in 1960 to a city with almost 46,000 residents in 2000. By 2020, the City is expected to have almost 70,000 residents. The city is in the middle of writing a new Comprehensive Plan. The current Plan says the intersection of Cedar Avenue and County Road 42 — near where the Wal-Mart is, “has evolved into a natural center for commercial activity.” Apple Valley’s Comprehensive Plan also calls for “Neighborhood Service Centers” to provide a “limited range of retail and service uses that meet the daily and weekly needs of the residents of a particular neighborhood.” The Plan says that large, undeveloped parcels in the city’s South Central Area should be developed for “mixed uses,” that is, residential and commercial uses located within the same general area. Apple Valley does not need a bigger Wal-Mart. There are 9 Wal-Marts within 16 miles of the city, including a supercenter 10 miles away in Shakopee. Readers are urged to email Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Hamann-Roland, You have been on the City Council for nine years now. Over that time you have seen a lot of growth in Apple Valley. But as another Mayor in Minnesota once said: ‘It’s not how big you grow, but how you grow big, that counts.’ Wal-Mart’s proposal to expand their store really brings no added value economically to Apple Valley. You have two Super Targets, and area grocery stores that are all selling the same products. To some degree, these stores are just playing musical chairs with your land and resources. Your city is in the middle of a Comprehensive Plan update. It would be better to focus your growth on mixed uses, on the Neighborhood Service Centers, and keep the strong residential quality of life that people expect from Apple Valley. If you are not careful, you will wind up living in Sprawl Valley, because small town character cannot be purchased on any Wal-Mart shelf — but once they take it from you, you can’t get it back at any price. I urge you to protect the neighbors of the Wal-Mart store, and reject this expansion because it will be harmful to the value of neighboring property, and is an incompatible use at that huge scale. As for the noise issue — noise walls will never solve the problem. Just ask residents in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who describe themselves as prisoners of the Wal-Mart supercenter in their backyards. Neighbors in Lake Charles have sued Wal-Mart over noise issues, and say that sound walls have failed to change the loss of the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Ask real people how their lives have changed — don’t rely on ‘experts’ hired by Wal-Mart. Even if you reject the expansion, your idea of a ban on overnight truck deliveries should be put into place immediately. It’s a common restriction that big retailers have learned to live with.”