Poway Walmart expansion approved on 4-1 vote

By Steve Dreyer

The proposed expansion of the Poway Walmart store was approved by a 4-1 City Council vote following a 3 1/2-hour public hearing Tuesday night.

Expansion supporters outnumbered opponents during Tuesday night's meeting. Photos by Beverley Brooks

Councilman Dave Grosch voted against the plan, saying he did not like that a delivery truck entrance would be moved from Midland Road to Hilleary Place, potentially disturbing residents of three apartment buildings on the two-lane street.

About 130 people, some sitting in an overflow area in the lobby of the council meeting building, attended the hearing. Twenty-eight people, many of them Walmart employees, spoke in favor of the expansion, while 10 spoke against it.

City Councilman John Mullin set the tone for the majority vote when he said, “When you take out all the chatter, what we’re looking at is a pretty straightforward land-use decision.” The current store is zoned for commercial use and is simply applying for a larger version of that allowed use, he said.

Mayor Don Higginson praised Walmart’s financial investment in the community and said he did not buy into arguments lodged by project opponents that the addition would generate traffic or noise problems or would negatively impact other nearby grocery stores.

“All I’ve heard tonight is that there are monsters under the bed,” the mayor said, “There are no monsters under the bed.”

The vote means Walmart may proceed with its plans, announced over two years ago, to expand the 18-year-old Poway store (the first Walmart built in the county) by 36,996 square feet, to 179,933 square feet. The expansion would be to the west, north and east sides of the Community Road store and would include the addition of fresh produce, a meat department, deli and bakery. The tire and lube center would be removed, along with a detached building that was once used as a post office and later as a produce store.

The amount of floor space that will be devoted to groceries will increase from 4,331 square feet to 39,831 square feet, according to project documents.

Walmart officials said the expanded store will be open 24 hours a day. The current store is allowed to be open around the clock but that only happens during the holiday shopping season.

Prior to casting his vote for the expansion, Councilman Jim Cunningham obtained assurances from the Walmart delegation that private security will patrol the parking lot around the clock.

NO-WE leader Joe St. Lucas addresses the City Council. All photos by Beverley Brooks

Speaking for what he said was the “800-plus member” No On Walmart Expansion (NO-WE) group, Joe St. Lucas said that “Putting this super box store in the middle of a family neighborhood is not the place for this  expansion.” He suggested the store relocate to a vacant Poway Business Park parcel identified in the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

Other project opponents speaking Tuesday night said the existing Walmart site is too small to accommodate the expansion, that the EIR was heavily slanted toward the applicant, that nearby grocery stores will see sales drop if a full Walmart grocery center opens and that the city may realize fewer sales taxes since the tax-generating tire and lube center will be taken out and replaced with non-taxable groceries.

Former council candidate Pete Babich warned that Poway Road was destined to become a six-lane “Mira Mesa Boulevard” unless the city rethinks the future of the road, and that an expanded Walmart would be “out of scale with its surroundings.”

The final EIR concludes the larger store will not create any significant environmental impacts, noting that traffic and noise impacts can be mitigated and that there are enough shoppers in the region to support a Walmart grocery store without hurting other stores in the area. The full report, requested by Walmart, was prepared by a consultant selected by the city and paid for by Walmart. The final bill is expected to exceed $350,000.

Expansion supporters occupied a good portion of the council chamber seats and lauded the project as providing low-cost groceries to residents as well as good job opportunities. The larger store will allow customers to make one-stop shopping trips, saving time and gasoline, they said. Higher customer volumes will translate into business opportunities for nearby merchants, they noted.

Among the speakers were about a dozen current hourly and salaried Walmart workers, who praised how the company treats its employees and its commitment to help in the community.

The motion to approve the project and its EIR was made by Councilwoman Merrilee Boyack, who said “this would have been a very different hearing” if Walmart was applying to build a big store from scratch at its present location.

“We’re the ‘City in the Country’ and this is the ‘city’ part,” Boyack said. She said she felt the nearby Vons and Stater Bros. markets are capable of competing with Walmart and that she is a strong believer in the free market system.

“It’s not the City Council’s job to pick which companies to support and which to oppose,” she said.

Prior to being elected to the council last fall, Grosch was the leader of the NO-WE group and spoke out against the project while running for office.

Tuesday night he started the meeting by saying he felt he could be objective and that he had read all of its documentation. He cast his “no” vote after questioning why the delivery-truck driveway’s entrance had been moved, saying he felt trucks were now closer to apartments on Hilleary than they had been to residences on Midland Road.

Short URL: http://www.pomeradonews.com/?p=15442

Posted by Steve Dreyer on Aug 24 2011. Filed under Featured Story, Local News, Poway. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

13 Comments for “Poway Walmart expansion approved on 4-1 vote”

  1. Mary Lou

    Once again the concerns of Poway residents are minimized and ridiculed. These people voiced serious concerns and the mayor calls it "monsters under the bed".. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the issue, it is the duty of the city council to listen to and treat all Powegians with respect. It's no wonder that so many feel too intimidated to speak at the meetings.

  2. 912anita

    Welcome Walmart – we are so pleased you will be in our community giving us terrific prices for our residents. WE LOVE WALMART PRICES.

    Walmart has bent over backwards to accommodate every request before it expands. Such intense scrutiny and opposition are primarily due to the fact that Walmart is non-union.

    I was not surprised to see Dave Grosch, who promised to be objective, be the only NO vote – excuse being some random delivery entrance detail. He headed up the No-Walmart group before he became a council member.

    This is going to be a great revenue creator for Poway and the rest of us are looking forward to the savings. Three cheers to Walmart!

  3. cpowegian

    MaryLou, no one minimized Poway residents. The council and staff did their jobs thoroughly. The fact is the majority of residents don’t see a problem with the expansion for a variety of reasons including, improving an aging property and increasing sales tax revenue. The impact report showed minimal impacts to traffic and infrastructure (which Walmart is going to mitigate).

    • Joe St. Lucas

      The actual quote starts "It's like when you're a kid and you're afraid of monsters under the bed." and then goes on to the part the chieftain quoted. The "minimizing and ridiculing" part is the mayor implying that the people who objected to the expansion were children. He could have said something like "The report states that all of the concerns will have insignificant impacts on the traffic and noise and I believe the report.", not: "you folks are kids afraid of imaginary monsters." It's a matter of delivery.

    • Roger

      Poway residents – HA! What about all the out of towners? What increase sales tax revenue? The last time I looked croceries was not taxed.

  4. Sanderson

    Higginson is a poster child for term limits. All the council members were very businesslike and professional. Then he goes off with his mouth. Calling the valid concerns of others just monsters was demeaning. I'm thrilled that Walmart was approved, though. It will improve that area. Grosch didn't really come up with a valid reason for voting no. He tried the HIlleary argument until Cunningham ripped on him. Then he just mumbled along. He was clearly biased from the beginning and should not have been participating at all. Very selfish of him to put the whole council and city at risk of a lawsuit. Glad it's done. Glad it's a yes.

    • Katie

      If you're unhappy with Mayor Higginson, vote him out, but don't limit the elected officials who are doing a good job. Term limits would throw out the baby with the bathwater. We have term limits…they're called elections!

      Think Grosch had to come up with something so he could vote no because he campaigned that he would…but it was a very feeble excuse. His little disclaimer at the beginning of the meeting was pointless and meaningless. Fortunately, the rest of the council understood the role government should play and approved a conforming use on commerical property…a decision that the vast majority of Poway wanted. Grosch's push for term limits is another ill-conceived idea, the ramifications of which, were he successful, would be very detrimental to our city.

      I, too, am glad it's over and glad it was a yes. Can't wait!!

      • Ladiboss

        After watching a replay of Tuesday's meeting on Ch. 24, I think Katie got it right! Although I also strongly oppose term limits too, to me, Dave Grosch looks like the poster child for them, not Don Higginson. Think Higginson was just trying to say there was really nothing to fear (i.e., there are no monsters under the bed). Maybe his analogy wasn't the best, but it did make the point.

        On the other hand, Grosch was grasping for a reason to vote no and, even after his "disclaimer" at the beginning of the meeting where he alluded to the fact that he represented all of Poway, he completely ignored the majority of the community who wanted approval.

        I seriously doubt that his formation of the anti-Walmart group was based on the location of one driveway, which probably wasn't even in the design at the time he created that group, yet that was his main objection?

        I am reluctant to say it in this forum, but it's true: I was embarrassed for Mr. Grosch.

  5. Dan

    I was not totally against Wal Mart expanding it's store to include fresh food. My main objective is the location it wants to expand. Poway has a huge industrial park for large businesses, for instance Costco and Home Depot. That is where Wal Mart should relocate, away from residents and a very busy intersection. It may cost them more but they can afford it ! The expansion on Community and Poway Road WILL increase the traffic and noise, that's only common sense. Dave Grosch is right, and the rest of the City Counsil is insensitive as usual to the people who have to live near the noise and all of the residents that have to use Poway and Community roads. Same ol' Same!!

    • Harvey

      I don't see how folks would drive through Poway just to get to a super Walmart that offers groceries. Supply & demand will dictate this easily. The only way traffic will increase if there weren't as many supermarkets nearby. If you buy a house near the road and you have a noise problem, maybe the problem is with you. Derp.

      • Up Our Backyards

        I live about half a mile from Wal-Mart, and right now noise is not a problem. In fact, it is blessedly quiet at night, and I love that. But I doubt the peaceful nights will continue once the Wal-Mart expansion is complete; my understanding is that the grocery freight traffic will be occurring during late nights/early mornings. Hopefully I will be wrong about that, but if not, it will be a great loss to me and all of my neighbors. And yes, then the noise problem will be ours. Derp.

  6. RRR

    Way to go Poway City Council. This was a no brainer and shows that dispite a having a member that had already blocked himself into his vote by his campaign they were able to come to the right decision. Now we just need to get this single issue candidate off the council so our city can continue to the great city it has always been. Target is adding groceries and now with Wal Mart we will have more choices.

  7. J. Louise

    I'm sorry, but I have to comment on those stupid signs. "Bring groceries to Poway!" We have three grocery stores within two blocks of Wal-Mart. (We used to have four, before Wal-Mart killed Plow Boys.) "Yes to fresh food"? Wal-Mart sells cheap products, but cheap food is rarely fresh, unless you grew it yourself. Judging by the quality of the other products they sell, why would you want to eat Wal-Mart food?

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