Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
SW council members oppose Wal-Mart plan

By Matthew Engelhardt
Journal Inquirer
January 8, 2008

SOUTH WINDSOR - Town Council members took turns Monday stating their disapproval of a plan to build a Wal-Mart superstore and a Sam's Club.

Town Manager Matthew B. Galligan brought up Wal-Mart during the council's meeting at Town Hall.

Representatives for the Simon Property Group have met with Galligan over several months about developing a Wal-Mart in a plaza just over the Manchester town line.

"South Windsor Towne Plaza" would be in the vicinity of Wheeler Street and Smith Street off Pleasant Valley Road, near the Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store.

The site would be near South Windsor's Evergreen Walk development and Manchester's Plaza at Buckland Hills.

Galligan said last week that Wal-Mart representatives have approached him about building a store of approximately 190,000 square feet, along with a freestanding Sam's Club and a third building with a use yet to be determined.

The complex would be located approximately 1.75 miles from Wal-Mart's Manchester store. Store representatives could not be reached for comment on plans for that building.

Galligan confirmed Wal-Mart's plans on Dec. 31, and Monday night was the first time he discussed it publicly with the council.

Galligan reiterated that any Wal-Mart built in town would have to meet South Windsor's high standards. No abatements or other incentives would be offered, and the developer would have to present an aesthetically pleasing plan.

"You're not going to put the typical box in South Windsor," Galligan said.

Galligan said previously that he expected the developer to withdraw its current plan from the town planning office and submit a new concept for the plaza.

On Monday, he said the matter would be taken up by the Planning and Zoning Commission and asked concerned residents to voice their opinions by attending meetings or sending letters directly to the commission.

Wal-Mart isn't on the agenda for tonight's commission meeting.

Following Galligan's report, several council members expressed doubts about Wal-Mart establishing itself in South Windsor.

Councilman John Pelkey spoke on behalf of the Democratic minority, saying he was happy the issue was now public.

Pelkey said the Democrats had big concerns about the retailer, claiming the store would negate officials' hard work in developing that area of town. He said he couldn't find anything positive about Wal-Mart, even the $1.1 million in tax revenue projected in general plans.

"No matter what we do to disguise this as Evergreen Walk, it won't be Evergreen Walk," Pelkey said, adding later that he would be "quite happy" if Wal-Mart scraps its plans.

Republican Councilman Kevin McCann said Wal-Mart was a concern for everyone.

McCann said that when Evergreen Walk was built, the developer not only wasn't offered tax abatements but was required to pay for off-site improvements.

Should Wal-Mart seek approval, McCann hopes the commission would require the same mitigation to ease traffic problems and the burden on the surrounding neighborhood.

Additionally, McCann said he feared what would happen in the future if Wal-Mart were to abandon South Windsor and leave an empty big box.

"We don't want to have the next Manchester Parkade built right in South Windsor," McCann said.

Other council members voiced their disapproval before Republican Gary Bazzano advised them not to speak about a pending application.

Bazzano was on the PZC when it approved a change for the developer, establishing the parcel in question as a "gateway zone."

Bazzano said the council shouldn't influence the commission members in any way and that Wal-Mart was strictly an issue for planning and zoning.

Despite Bazzano's warning, Councilman Edward Havens cast his own doubts over the potential devastation to surrounding businesses if South Windsor approves Wal-Mart's move.

©Journal Inquirer 2008