Another Kentucky town has dumped Wal-Mart! A couple of months ago Fort Worth rejected Wal-Mart, and now Henderson, Kentucky is added to the rejection list (#143 on my list). I spoke against this project back in October, 2000 (see 10/5/00 newsflash) at the invitation of a citizen’s group called Henderson First. Back in November of 1999, the Henderson City-County Planning Commission had voted to rezone some 37 acres of agriculture land to commercial, subject to final notification of who the anchor tenant might be. The site was in a heavily residential area. When it turned out to be Wal-Mart proposing a 205,000 s.f. store, the neighbors turned out also, in the hundreds, to pack all four hearings before the Planning Commission. Residents complained that Wal-Mart’s traffic study was too localized, and use textbook numbers instead of actual superstore experience. To “drive home” their point, members of Henderson First introduced their own traffic study, which showed problems developing on the overpass and cloverleaf leading to the project, not just in front of the store. “All of our independent traffic oount numbers are significantly larger than the study numbers,” Henderson First told the Commission, “actual numbers being used to generate traffic counts will lead to much higher levels of traffic and lower future level of service.” On January 11, the Commission held its final hearing, which lasted 5 hours. Henderson First reports that the Commission voted unanimously to reject the proposal, and that one Commissioner even apologized to residents for voting to rezone the land before knowing who the anchor tenant would be. The resident’s traffic study showed that some tenants generate much more traffic than others. A Wal-Mart traffic count drew three times the volume of cars than a Lowe’s home improvement center. The group’s count of cars exiting the Hopkinsville, KY Wal-Mart showed an average of 909 cars per hour on a Friday evening from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Traffic congestion is one of the most common attack points for big box projects. Citizen’s groups should insist on at least three things: 1) that any developer’s traffic study be submitted (at developer expense) for peer review by an independent traffic engineering firm chosen by the town — and one not located in your local area. 2) that the traffic study should look at roads leading up to the site from at least 5 miles away, 3) that the developer should submit actual traffic oounts from similar-sized projects in the state, along with any Institute for Traffic Engineer (ITE) data. Any new Wal-Mart being proposed should trigger a call for actual traffic data from superstores in the region. For contacts at Henderson First, or a copy of their traffic report, contact [email protected]