NORMAN — Residents near a proposed Walmart Supercenter on the city’s east side say they will get a petition drive going to protest a change in land use and rezoning for the project.
They would have done it sooner, except they were kept in the dark that a Walmart was planned for the southeast corner of Cedar Lane and Classen Boulevard, Everett Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson said he and other residents of the nearby St. James Park neighborhood learned about plans for a supercenter just two days before Tuesday’s city council meeting, at which the land use and zoning requests were to be considered.
The requests ended up being postponed Tuesday at the request of the applicant, who was represented at the meeting by attorney Blaine Nice. The applicant is not Walmart but rather the current property owners, Nice said.
The requests are to change from a low density residential land use designation and industrial zoning to a commercial land use designation and zoning.
Nice said the applicant asked Tuesday for the postponement until Aug. 12 so questions about the project could be answered, and because two members of the council were absent Tuesday.
“We wanted a full council to vote on the proposal,” he said. Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and Councilman Jerry Lang were absent from the meeting.
Council members said they were unaware that the land use change and rezoning request was for construction of a Walmart until just a couple of days before the meeting.
The Planning Commission, which met to consider the requests in June, also was unaware the changes were to pave the way for a Walmart Supercenter. In a report to city council, commissioners said no one protested the requested changes and that apparently no one protested at a pre-development meeting.
“We didn’t protest, because we didn’t know about it,” Hutcheson said. “If we had known, we would have been on this from the git-go.”
Planning Director Susan Connors said staff members knew the plans were for a Walmart, but were asked to keep it confidential.
“This is typical of ‘large-box’ retailers,” she said. Plans submitted to the planning commission indicated “a large retail project,” without naming what it was, she said.
“In matters of land acquisition, there’s a reason why applicants don’t disclose who they are in negotiations with,” Nice said.
Hutcheson said he believed the public, and particularly residents that close to a project of that size, deserved to know what was going on.
“We felt blindsided,” he said.
The city already has two Walmart Supercenters, one at 333 N Interstate Drive and the other at 601 12th Ave. NE. A Walmart Neighorhood Market is at 3671 Rock Creek Road, and a second one is being built at 2551 Classen Boulevard, where Sooner Mobile Home Park used to be located.