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Commission has first look at Walmart annexation plan

Community Development Director Dennis Darnold points to the location of the land proposed for annexation on a large aerial photograph of Hudson.

The outlines of what a Walmart Superstore in Hudson would look like became a little clearer when developers of the project introduced it to the city Plan Commission last Thursday night.

The store is proposed for a site on the east side of Carmichael Road and north of Interstate 94 currently in the town of Hudson.

The owners of the property, Double Play Investments LLC, have petitioned the city to annex the 29.2 acres. Rock Island Land Co., with 15.9 acres immediately north of the proposed Walmart site, also is a party to the petition.

City Community Development Director Dennis Darnold explained that the purpose of Thursday night’s discussion was to introduce the project and identify issues the Plan Commission wants the city staff and engineers to investigate. He said the presenters wouldn’t be going into the “nuts and bolts” of the project.

Some details of the plan did emerge, however.

William Matzek, a civil engineer with Kimley-Hom and Associates, presented a map showing two streets leading into the proposed development from Carmichael Road.

The one closest to Coulee Road would provide right-in, right-out access to the Walmart store, Matzek said. He said the main signal-controlled intersection would be at the Culver’s restaurant entrance.

Matzek reported that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is studying improvements to the Carmichael Road corridor at I-94. He said his firm has met with the DOT about possible upgrades, and that more consultations would be taking place.

An associate of Matzek’s said the traffic signal controls along Carmichael Road need to be linked to perform better.

When Plan Commission member Fred Yoerg asked about the possibility of adding lanes, the engineer said a fourth northbound lane would be added just north of the freeway bridge. That would allow two left-turn lanes onto Coulee Road and two lanes continuing north, he said.

He said the current three-lane setup doesn’t allow north- and southbound vehicles to make left turns simultaneously, and is highly inefficient.

The frontage road along the south side of the development property (next to I-94) wouldn’t have an access to the Walmart store, and would be left unchanged Matzek said.

The new street running east from the Culver’s restaurant also would be the new access to six residential properties currently on Green Briar Road.

The plan calls for the new 155,000-square-foot superstore to be located on top of the current town road.

Darnold pointed out that the proposal calls for discontinuing street right-of-ways and easements, and existing lot lines -- part of the reason the annexation, if it proceeds, will be complicated.

Darnold said the impact of the development on Carmichael Road traffic is one of the issues the city staff will be reviewing. He said the city is waiting for the results of a traffic impact study completed by the developer’s engineering firm.

The remaining capacity of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, storm-water management and the abandonment of streets and property lines would also be issues to review, Darnold said.

He said the 45 acres proposed for annexation currently is divided into 22 different parcels.

Darnold said the city can’t discontinue streets that are still in the town of Hudson. He said there are legal requirements for that process, which would take place after the property is annexed.

Annexing the land wouldn’t obligate the city to discontinue the streets, he said, but that is what the property owners are asking for. He said the street plan would probably be laid out in the annexation agreement.

“We have not agreed to anything at this point,” Darnold said. “Everything is up for negotiation.”

He said it would take a two-thirds vote of the City Council (four of the six alderpersons) to approve the annexation. Then the property would have to be rezoned for commercial use, and finally, the development plans would have to be approved.

“We’re only at the first step of this process,” Darnold said. He said it will probably take a month for the city staff to gather the information the Plan Commission needs to continue its review of the proposed annexation.

Landowner speaks

Jim Anderson, one the partners in Double Play Investments, told the commission that a lot of thought over “a long, long time” has gone into the development proposal.

“I’m saying this from the heart. I care about Hudson,” said Anderson, who grew up in North Hudson and is a member of the Hudson High School class of 1975 that was the first to graduate from the school on Vine Street.

Anderson said the Double Play partners began buying up residential lots in the area proposed for annexation 20 years ago and own 25 vacant lots.

The owners have rejected proposals that didn’t make sense, he said, and the financial and real estate market crash of 2008 ended another.

“Whether this happens or not, if that land is going to be developed, somebody has to start it,” Anderson said.

He indicated that Walmart has the money to pay for the infrastructure needed to begin the city’s next phase of development along the Carmichael Road corridor between Coulee Road and Vine Street/County UU. He said the company also has agreed to set aside land behind the proposed store to provide a buffer between it and residences to the east.

Neighbors speak

Tom Moody, who lives at 429 Jack Pine Drive, identified himself as one of the homeowners who would be affected by the Walmart store.

Moody said he is familiar with Walmart operations having grown up in the South, and knows that restocking operations take place throughout the night with trucks coming and going.

He said the store would destroy the value of homes along Glenna and Jack Pine drives to the east. The store would be outside his back door, Moody said, and he also has concerns about storm-water runoff from the development.

Mike Brueske said he and family members own three of the six homes on a cul-de-sac at the end of Green Briar Road that aren’t part of the proposed annexation. The six residences are bordered on three sides by land proposed for annexation.

Brueske, a real estate agent, said he isn’t against progress, but the proposed new road to the superstore and his house would run alongside his property.

“It will be totally different,” Brueske said of the setting.

He said he hadn’t been contacted by the developers, and introduced himself to Anderson and Ron Clark of Rock Island Land Co.

“We need to figure out our options,” Brueske said.

Commissioners comment

District 2 Alderperson Mary Yacoub, a member of the seven-person Plan Commission, said the effect the new Walmart store would have on Carmichael Road traffic is a concern to her.

“We need to be very conscious of how it functions,” she said.

The engineer from Kimley-Hom and Associates said Walmart also has an interest in Carmichael Road performing well since shoppers would travel the road to get to the store.

Yacoub also inquired about plans for the existing 65,000-square-foot Walmart store on Crest View Drive.

Deborah Tomczyk, a Milwaukee attorney representing Walmart, said the company has a real estate division that has good success in finding new tenants for the stores it vacates.

“You’ve got a great market here, so that helps,” she added.

When asked for examples of new occupants of former Walmart stores, Tomczyk said a J.C. Penney store recently went into a vacant Wisconsin store. In another Wisconsin city, a former Walmart is being used as a church, she said.

“I hope there is a benefit to the city of Hudson, so it doesn’t cost Hudson to host a Super Walmart,” Yacoub commented.

Plan Commission member Fred Yoerg expressed a similar concern.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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