Decision Delayed Again on Second Manchester Walmart Location

The Planning and Zoning Commission again decided to table making any decision on Walmart's proposal to build a new supercenter in town.

After discussing the issue for more than three hours Monday night, the Manchester Planning and Zoning Commission again decided to table any action on Walmart's request to . 

The commission did however unanimously vote to approve Walmart's erosion and sediment control plan and its request for an inland wetlands permit, inching the development closer to fruition, but elected to table the chain retail giant's request for the special exception needed to construct the new store at 205 Spencer St. 

If approved, the new store would be built on the site of the former Kmart on Spencer Street near the East Hartford townline. The former Kmart building had been vacant for years before the current owner, Gatewa Lauren Inc., demolished it earlier this year. Walmart has an agreement to purchase the 20.8 acre property from Gateway Lauren Inc. and construct a new 158,430 square foot building on the property. Its application states that the Pep Boys and Ocean State Job Lot that currently occupy the same plaza on Spencer Street would remain as its tenants. If approved, it would be Walmart's second location in Manchester, as the retail giant currently has a store located at 420 Buckland Hills Dr. near the Shoppes at Buckland Hills mall that is in the process of being expanded into a supercenter itself. 

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A plaza across the street from the proposed Spencer Street location houses a ShopRite and a number of other small businesses, and many of the residents who turned out Monday night to voice their opposition to the proposal cited concerns that Walmart's presence in the area would harm many of those businesses. 

"Somewhere along the line we have to stand up to huge corporations," said Dan Moran. "…I'm against it because to me it would just hurt a lot of businesses." 

While Catherine Oliver said that she worried that if Walmart were allowed to open a second store in town, it might cause the Buckland Hills Drive location to close, which would just lead to another large, empty retail store in town. 

"There can't be enough customers to keep two Walmart's going," Oliver said. "Are we just trading one empty box for another?"

John Knuff, Walmart's attorney, said building on the Spencer Street location was an example of "smart growth" as outlined in the town's plan of conservation and development by utilizing an area that had previously supported a similar large retail store. 

Knuff said that Walmart had no plans to close its Buckland Hills Drive location either. 

"Walmart is absolutely committed to that store," Knuff said. "They will serve different markets and two stores will remain. There is no likelihood that the Buckland store will close."

Residents also cited increased traffic and congestion in the area as another concern brought about by the new store. 

Walmart's traffic engineers said that, although the development would increase traffic to the area, it would not be unmanageable and would not result in a major uptick because many people currently utilized stores in that area anyway, and would likely fold a trip to Walmart into planned excursions to those existing stores. Although traffic engineers employed by attorneys opposing the development said that Walmart was not factoring in all potential traffic caused by a new store and that traffic problems could be a greater concern than the retailer was planning for. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission elected to close the public hearing on the proposal, meaning that no more testimony or public comments on the proposed new store can be heard, although the commission did not indicate if it intended to rule on Walmart's proposal as part of its next scheduled meeting, Jan 7. 

Brian Hurlburt December 04, 2012 at 02:24 PM
David, good summary of the meeting. As I sat and listened to Attorney John Knuff's comments, I became uncomfortable in the fact he was embellishing the Wal-Mart case, he was wearing his salesman hat. Mr. Knuff has no idea if Wal-Mart will close the Buckland Hills store, or what their future strategies are. He would not have privy to that type of strategy; so when he claimed that Wal-Mart would not close the Buckland Hills location, he made that comment without any knowledge of Wal-Mart's long term plans. There is no way they would involve him in that type of strategy, as his focus is to sell the town on why this would be good. I am sure a group of astute Manchester High School student would have seen how disingenuous this team really is, so I know the Planning & Zoning Commission did. Additionally, their traffic analysis is inaccurate, and we need to make that decision based on our own observations. Once this group of so called "experts" leaves, they don't care what the traffic situation looks like; they are not held accountable, Planning & Zoning is. Wal-Mart does not fit into the 2020 plan, instead it is counter to the idea of having walkable shopping, and neighborhood focus. Wal-Mart is a centralized shopping destination, and does not encourage potential businesses with competing products to take a risk and compete. Two Wal-Mart's in this close of a proximity should be a violation of anti trust laws.
James Bond December 04, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Excellent analysis Brian.However it will come down to zoning laws and that's where the 'rubber stamp' will eventually fall.The board will say they couldn't stop it and absolve themselves of the situation.You are dead on when it comes from some mouth piece that isn't privy to the company plan to close or not to close the Buckland store.Also the traffic study,did anyone think that the study,paid for by Wal-Mart would conclude anyway but the Wal-Mart way. The study was probably conducted by some Chinese group with stock in the company.
v. j. milton December 04, 2012 at 03:47 PM
In addition to the traffic congestion factor which is quite high at certain times of the day such as when MCC is dismissing students from their parking lots, --I would second the concern of impact upon other businesses across the street as well as down the road a few miles such as Stop and Shop and the new CVS just opened. I don't believe Manchester needs two super Walmart stores any more than it needs more grocery chain stores to operate within stone's throw of each other. Nuf said.
Greg December 04, 2012 at 08:23 PM
We have two Walmart stores already and they both do very well one called Walmart the other Sams. So the question is will the Walmart on an empty piece of land close to highways, East Hartford and housing projects in Manchester that would generate more taxes for the town be good for the location or should it remain an empty lot abutting the town dump. Well I think I know how I would vote if asked to.
JK124 December 04, 2012 at 09:41 PM
The fact that you don't believe Manchester needs multiple Wal-Marts is all well and good, but I highly doubt you had the inclination, resources, or desire to do the obvious market research that the corporation had to conduct to make a 2nd store seem feasible. You cite Stop and Shop and CVS as two examples of supposed "victims" of Wal-Mart's expansion. Did you voice the same concern when CVS opened a second location on West Middle Turnpike down the street from their already open North Main Street location? As far as Stop and Shop is concerned, Wal-Mart will be about equidistant from two S&S locations, one in East Hartford and one at the Parkade, yet Wal-Mart is the big octopus here? And for all who lament the issues of traffic in that area - are we supposed to halt any and all future development because the wait at a traffic line will be long? So any store that thinks of opening shop in that vicinity should be prevented because you'll be delayed from getting home? Yeah, let's make that K-Mart area a nice park with some pretty benches, sounds terrific.
Brian Hurlburt December 05, 2012 at 06:00 PM
JK124, You cannot argue against the fact that none of us have the resources to perform a market study as Wal-Mart most likely has done prior to proposing this additional store, but some of us may have the inclination and desire. However, none of us have any insight, nor would Attorney Knuff, into Wal-Mart's long-term strategy. Perhaps their market research shows that most existing customers come from an area that is closer to Spence Street, and therefore this store would move them closer to that customer base, and perhaps increase accessibility to that population; and with that additional store, there is now not enough of a customer base to support Buckland Hills, then what? As some others pointed out, perhaps Wal-Mart plans to close the Buckland Hills store, and relocate their Sam's store. At this point that thinking is only conjecture; however, logical. And if those thoughts come to fruition, is will only mean a shift in blight.
Brian Hurlburt December 05, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I agree that CVS does not need two stores in such close proximity. However, do we know their long term plans? I am not sure of the long-term viability of the North Main Street store with the 'Super" CVS on Middle Turnpike. But CVS is not a destination location; consumers are not traveling 25 miles to shop at a CVS. Stop & Shop, like most grocery stores, draws from a consumer base within a close proximity; again, not a destination. A Wal-Mart Supercenter is a destination, and therein lies the problem. Wal-Mart attempts to be all things, and surely some businesses will lose, and create more blight. In the rural area of the country, this makes some sense, as there is not any availability or variety like we are used to. I don’t oppose some sort of differentiated business on this site, such as a Whole Foods. This type of business will not bring in traffic like Wal-Mart, and provides a differentiated offering. However, if the old K-Mart site were to be made into a park with benches, that actually does sound terrific. It is better than the alternative being put before us.
colin mc December 09, 2012 at 02:25 AM
i went to the last 3 PZC meetings.... i listened to the testimony of Walmart's hired guns and spoke out in opposition to this proposal. this proposal is wrong for town on every level. not a damn thing that's positive will come of this. this entire country is going down in flames because of greed, apathy, and laziness. we have gone from a republic, to a democracy, and are hurriedly headed for idiocracy (a country full of morons). America!! makes me sick but we have only our collective selves to blame. too many people wrapped up in tv, sports, and the rest of the mindless dribble that's passed off as entertainment these days. the politicians are criminals, the newsrooms are full of liars, the bankers are robbers and everyone just wants to go home an turn on the boob-tube. well, merry christmas and be well, friends.
Ricman December 10, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I really don' get those that are opposed to Walmart. This area has been designated retail for over 40 years. Most Walmarts in our area took over where previous department stores failed. Walmart did not drive them out. They self-destructed because they didn't know how to survive. Look around. Caldor, Ames, Bradlees, all gone! Even Kmart, where this Walmart is proposed, is more limited now. All before Walmart took a strong presence here. This Walmart would serve East Hartford, Glastonbury, Hebron, Manchester, etc. If they only wanted one in town they would have chosen the old Parkade site. As it is, the Buckland Walmart will still serve Manchester, Vernon, South Windsor, Tolland, etc. I don't see any shortage of customers that would render this store superfluous. Park benches my ^$#!
colin mc December 11, 2012 at 03:26 AM
ric, and all those that dont see anything wrong with this proposal need to do some homework. not only on walmarts practices as a retailer (practices, principles) but their effects on small businesses and local economies on a whole. we have gone from a nation of producers to one of consumers. promoting more consumption isnt going to solve any of the problems we face. manchester already has plenty of retail space (both active, vacant, and mothballed) to last us indefinitely. a supercenter built on spencer street will only result in excessive traffic and the closure of shoprite across the street, resulting in more urban blight. the dollars that were once spent at a local business and that went back into the local (CT, New England) economies will now be sent out of state and country (as walmart sources most products from the 3rd world - ie. slave labor, ex. Bangladeshian factory fires) We should try to take the higher ground and oppose this proposal as well as boycott their stores. im not a liberal, im not a conservative. i believe in good stewardship of the enviroment but dont think taxing people for carbon emissions is going to fix "climate change" (its just another way for the government to get your money). we need to re-examine the principles and philosophies that we all live by and put them into practice. we've certainly become corrupted but a consumer culture that glorifies the chasing of happiness through the purchasing of goods & that's not an America to be proud of.
Ricman March 08, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Colin, You must have missed stopped reading the article on the fire after you saw the word Walmart. Otherwise you would know that other stores, including Sears, used the same factory. I'm not defending that as I am bothered by all of the offshoring we do. Too bad our policiticans don't seem to see it as a problem. Shoprite co-existed with Edwards when that store was across the street. Now, with only one grocery store on this side of town the service and quality has gone down even though the store is overcrowded. I'm all for another store to take the place of Walmart but I am not aware of one that doesn't use the same business model. I'd also like my retirement benefits and medical coverage restored by my employer but that is not going to happen. We may not like but it's the way of the world today and I am not aware of anyone having a solution. And that is nothiong to proud of either.
Brian Hurlburt March 08, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Ricman, I see we are all on the same side. I would argue that there is a solution. It is up to the consumers to drive business behavior. We need to buy those products that have the most U.S. value added, and remind businesses what we want as consumers. We can send letters and e-mails. If 1 person does this, no one cares; if 10 people do this, it mike get notice; but if 1000 people send letters and make calls, that is how change is achieved. Then we need to back up our requests with action, and support businesses that support us. There is quite a bit to this consumer behavior that would help our economy to grow, and take our own people out of poverty, we just need to make conscientious buying decision.


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