City wants to eliminate significant parts of Kelsey plan to welcome Walmart
MONROE - Supporters of the North Kelsey Development Plan were disappointed at what little resemblance the city’s updated version of the plan has with the original.
The plan establishes development and design guidelines for the North Kelsey development subarea off U.S. 2 and North Kelsey Street.
The city first presented the plan’s slashed version to the City Council Oct. 9. The revised document went before the planning commission last week for a recommendation, which was postponed to this week.
The new document is 20 pages less than the original 69, and most of the content that was eliminated pertained to what originally defined it.
The original document emphasized a pedestrian-friendly small town feel with modest signage and a village green. The document was vetted heavily by members of the community over a number of meetings and public hearings that went on for more than a year.
Resident Vickie Mullen said she and many other residents went to “almost every council meeting from 2000 to 2005” to help fine-tune the plan to make sure it had the right feel for Monroe.
That “feel” primarily discouraged big-box commercial development, which is exactly what the city now wants to bring in. The city has approved plans for a Walmart superstore to build there.
Soon after negotiations with Walmart began, the city started looking at changing the North Kelsey design guidelines to make them fit with the inevitable look of the retail giant’s look.
Walmart stores are large, requiring lots of concrete for parking, which is something the original development plan specifically wanted to avoid.
“It does not need to look like a strip mall,” Mullen said.
“Development never came about the way it was designed,” said city planning manager Paul Popelka, adding that the rewrite of the plan was only the next logical step for the city to take.
“It’s at a point now where (the plan) will never be implemented according to the original version. We’ve taken quite a bit out,” Popelka said at last week’s planning commission meeting.
City Councilwoman Patsy Cudaback expressed some disappointment at the updated plan at its presentation during the Oct. 9 council meeting.
“This is pretty gutted,” Cudaback said. “There are substantial changes to this.”
At the time, the new plan’s first reading before the council was scheduled for Oct. 16 — the very next day following the planning commission’s public hearing.
“I’m concerned about the timing ... shouldn’t we put a couple weeks between the hearing and the first reading?” Cudaback said. “Isn’t it better to have more time to process, time to digest the public comments?”
Economic development manager Jeff Sax recommended moving forward, saying delaying the changes could open up the city to legal challenge like it has with the Walmart project.
Cudaback protested and successfully convinced her fellow council members to push back the first reading to Tuesday, Oct. 23.
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