BAXTER -- Petitioners are asking the city of Baxter to require environmental assessments before making a decision about a proposed Wal-Mart superstore.
There are 39 signatures on the petition, which was expected to be filed today with the city of Baxter, but more signatures are expected when the issue comes before the Baxter City Council.
Central Lakes Properties LLC, out of Minneapolis, Jan. 29 applied for minor subdivision preliminary plat approval for 34 acres of land off Glory Road, just west of Highway 371. The preliminary plat proposed by Central Lakes Properties calls for a 207,502 square-foot Wal-Mart Super Center, which will include a grocery store, gas station and an auto repair center.
At the time, Baxter City Planner Todd Holman stated if Central Lakes Properties meets the requirements of the planning of the site, the city is in no position to deny the superstore concept. Holman could not be reached for comment this morning.
Terry Sluss, Crow Wing County commissioner and Baxter resident, is representing petitioners who are requesting an Environmental Assessment Worksheet be completed before the proposed project continues. And petitioners are urging the city to go further and require the more involved Environmental Impact Statement.
Today Sluss said the city indicated an EIS will be required because of the proposed superstore project's size. And Sluss said he has heard a legal opinion that it may not be too late for the city to establish a superstore moratorium.
Sluss said in his research there have been many instances around the country where local government was able to stop a project because it did not fit in the community. Sluss said based on legal opinion he thinks there is still room for that here.
With a project of this size, Holman said the city needs to make its decisions on fact and the petition is designed to make sure the city gets all the information before a decision is made. If the city denies the EAW petition, the petitioners can appeal that to district court.
An EAW is a brief document designed to set out the basic facts to determine whether the greater detail and analysis of an EIS is required. The documents are typically used where there is potential for significant environmental effects resulting from any major governmental action. The EIS analyzes its significant environmental impacts, discusses appropriate alternatives and also analyzes economic, employment and sociological effects that cannot be avoided should the action be implemented.
Sluss said an EAW petition requires the Planning and Zoning Commission take no further action on developer's application until the Baxter City Council rules whether to deny the application or require an EAW or EIS.
In the petition, Sluss stated the filing came because of concerns for significant environmental effects in regard to the size, nature and location of the proposed subdivision.
"The petitioners would ask the city council to either deny the permit or require the Environmental Impact Statement immediately due to the size and scope of the proposed subdivision and both its environmental impact as well as its impact on economic, employment and sociological effects ..."
Central Lakes Properties also applied for conditional use permits for the gas station and the auto repair center; as well as for garden supply center; furniture sales; an eye center; a photo center; outdoors sales for Christmas, Halloween, and garden and landscape products; and for forest land conversion. A variance also was requested by the development company for a loading dock.
Central Lakes Properties purchased the land on which they are proposing to locate the Wal-Mart Super Center in 2000 from Park Region Limited Partnership, whose general partner is John Sullivan.
The preliminary plat, the CUP applications and the variance request is expected to go before the Baxter Planning and Zoning Commission at 7 p.m. Feb. 11. The next Baxter City Council meeting is Feb. 18.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.