Archive for Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Bonner Springs considers effects of Wal-Mart move

April 5, 2000

Depending on how one looks at it, the presence in Bonner Springs of a mega store complete with groceries and retail items could be positive or negative.

To one Bonner Springs grocery store owner, it could be negative.

At a recent meeting, Sandra Swedo, an owner of the Bonner Springs Thriftway who lives near Tonganoxie, gave Tonganoxie City Council members copies of the book, "Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart," written by Al Norman.

Swedo said that Wal-Mart plans to close its Bonner Springs Wal-Mart store and build a new super center along Kansas Highway 7, across the highway from where Wal-Mart has operated for about 12 years.

"A super center would not only be devastating for Bonner Springs, it would also be devastating to Basehor and Tonganoxie," Swedo said.

Repeated attempts to reach Wal-Mart representatives to comment were unsuccessful.

Bonner Springs city manager Weldon Padgett said he has had only unofficial dealings with Wal-Mart since their attempt last year failed to build a super center at the intersection of Kansas Highway 7 and Commercial Avenue.

At a July 1999 hearing with the planning commission, questions were raised about highway access.

"The new Wal-Mart would have been at the intersection of Commercial Avenue and K-7, about a half-mile south of the K-7, I-70 interchange, which is essentially a massive reconstruction project," Padgett said. "It was potentially going to affect the access of traffic onto K-7."

Padgett said that after it appeared it would take months to resolve the traffic issue, Wal-Mart started looking for other building sites.

"I don't know if any land has been purchased," Padgett said. "They haven't come in with any plans yet. At this point we expect that they are wanting to locate a super center in town."

Padgett noted that Wal-Mart is already building a super center about 10 miles from Bonner Springs, across from a Target store on Shawnee Mission Parkway.

But for now, development along the K-7 corridor hinges on a Kansas Department of Transportation study, Padgett said. "We've all agreed we would like to keep traffic moving on K-7," Padgett said.

It's his understanding, Padgett said, that if a Wal-Mart super center were established in Bonner Springs, it would include a grocery and retail store.

A new store could encompass about 150,000 square feet, compared to the existing Wal-Mart that Padgett estimated at 45,000 to 50,000 square feet.

Although some area residents are concerned about the effect a larger Wal-Mart would have on their businesses, Padgett sees a bright side to any expansion by the Arkansas-based retailer.

"It would mean more property taxes, more sales taxes, keeping money locally, drawing people in all those things are good reasons for it to be here," Padgett said.

He also said that he's afraid that if Wal-Mart cannot obtain approval for a super center in Bonner Springs, the company might close its existing store.

"There would be some concern from this community if Wal-Mart left," Padgett said. "That store probably generates 15 percent of our sales tax revenue. If they left, the amount of money that we would lose in sales tax alone if they weren't replaced wouldn't be made up here."

Sales tax isn't the only point to consider, Padgett said.

"There's property tax, plus the jobs we're talking hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars which, for instance, adds up to a lot of police officers and a lot of other things the city provides," he said.

But to some local business owners and residents, there is a fear that a new super center could hurt the town.

Henry Chamberlain, who owns a consulting engineering firm in Kansas City, Mo., has lived in Bonner Springs for two and a half years.

Chamberlain said he testified last year before the planning and zoning commission on a couple of occasions regarding Wal-Mart's application to build on property that adjoined Chamberlain's property.

"The effect that we've seen already on local business from the presence of the existing Wal-Mart has been the departure of locally owned businesses," Chamberlain said.

"We know there's enough retail grocery sales capacity in town to accommodate all of the present market and near-term growth. When Wal-Mart proposes to add again enough capacity to serve over 100 percent of the market, we can only assume that they intend to displace local businesses."

Or, as Swedo told the Tonganoxie City Council, "When you say Wal-Mart, people get so excited and think it's wonderful.

"Well, to Wal-Mart it is wonderful."

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