Walmart Faces Roadblock for Downtown GB Store - WBAY

Walmart Faces Roadblock for Downtown GB Store

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Walmart faces a major roadblock to move forward with their Downtown Green Bay supercenter plans.

After a five-hour public hearing Monday night, Green Bay's Plan Commission voted to change the city's comprehensive plan by designating the Larsen Green Site for "Downtown" use, which would prohibit any big box retailer from moving in.

The comprehensive plan acts as a guide for zoning, which then regulates the types of developments allowed in a certain area.  That means the decision to approve a "Downtown" designation instead of the "Commercial" designation Walmart asked for is significant.

"I think the planning commission made the right decision to adhere to what the plan has been for downtown," says Greg Flisram, Green Bay's Economic Development Director.

Though not everyone is sure it's a good idea.

"I would not vote for that plan, it limits what they can do," says Green Bay City Councilman Tom De Wane.

Green Bay's Economic Development Director Greg Flisram says just the opposite.

"It actually opens it up to a wider range of uses in terms of commercial, retail, office, housing," says Flisram.

According to the city's planning department, "Downtown" districts are the most flexible in types of uses including retail, residential, office, public, educational etc.

While a "Commercial" designation limits the types of uses to only retail and office.

But "Downtown" designation does restricts building size to about 70,000 square feet. It also requires a building to be multiple stories in order to have a parking lot. Which would prevent any big box store from building there.

"'Commercial' doesn't do that.  'Commercial' at least gives them ... an open option to do what they might do," says De Wane.

"Commercial" doesn't limit building size and allows for a large parking lot, which would be conducive to any large retail store, including Walmart.

The Plan Commission decided a "Downtown" classification would be the best fit for the Larsen Green Site in the city's comprehensive plan.  If passed by the City Council, it would be a guide for zoning, but it wouldn't dictate it. So Walmart could request a variance.

"They still have a right to come in front of the plan (commission) and say listen, even though it's zoned this, we'd like the opportunity to build here," says De Wane.

"Unless the planning commission has a change of heart on this, I believe that zone change request won't go through," says Flisram.

But Walmart isn't giving up on their supercenter plans just yet.

"I don't expect them to walk away and I'm sure our economic team doesn't expect them to walk away," says De Wane.

City Council will discuss the Plan Commission's recommendation next week and take a vote in March, when the public will once again be able to comment.

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