Baxter City Council members are on the verge of making one of the most important decisions they'll ever make for their city. On Tuesday, the council is expected to consider the planning and zoning commission's recommendation not to insist on a Environmental Impact Statement for the planned 207,502-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter at Glory Road and Highway 371.
Since the 34-acre parcel will be the site of the largest commercial development ever before the Baxter City Council we side with the minority of the planning and zoning commission who felt the additional study was needed. The council should reject the planning and zoning commission's advice and call for an EIS.
While a delay might prove to be inconvenient for Wal-Mart, it would hardly prove to be ruinous to the world's largest retail chain. More information can only help Baxter city officials make the right decision. For a topic that's this important to the entire Brainerd-Baxter area, it's unlikely anyone will criticize council members for researching the issue too thoroughly.
Baxter city officials were criticized in the past for not being ready for the rapid development which took place in the city during the 1990s. There's no doubt that there's a lot of information to consider in order to guide the city along the path of smart growth and development. So why not take a little extra time to fully explore such ramifications as runoff from Wal-Mart's bituminous parking lot, the supercenter's impact on the Perch Lake watershed and the huge increase that's being projected in traffic?
The public gets one chance to weigh in on a major development such as the Wal-Mart Supercenter. Once it's built, it's impossible to unbuild it. In fact, once the supercenter's built the city will have the spectre of an abandoned building at the site of the current Wal-Mart to deal with.
Baxter City Council members were elected with the knowledge that tough decisions such as this one would come before them. The council has rejected other planning and zoning commission recommendations. There's no reason why they can't say no to this one.
If Baxter rushes this decision and makes the wrong choice there will be no undoing the effects of one of the most massive commercial developments in the city's history.
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