NORMAN — Norman will get another Walmart Supercenter, despite protests from nearby residents that it will increase traffic, crime and pollution and is not what they signed on for when they bought their homes.
“We don’t want a retailer in our backyard,” said Nicki Wilson, a resident of the St. James Park neighborhood, which is adjacent to the southeast corner of Cedar Lane and Classen Boulevard, where the supercenter will be built.
“This neighborhood is a hidden gem,” Wilson said. “We chose it because it was in a rural ward, not because we wanted to be near commercial development.”
Wilson and other residents voiced concerns about the project during a city council meeting Tuesday that lasted nearly seven hours.
In a 5-4 vote, council members approved a land use change from light industrial to commercial to allow construction of the supercenter. Voting against the change were Lynne Miller, Stephen Tyler Holman, Greg Jungman and Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.
A rezoning request to commercial passed by a 6-3 vote, with Miller, Holman and Jungman voting against it.
The city already has supercenters at 333 N Interstate Drive and 601 12th Ave. NE. Additionally, a Walmart Neighborhood Market is at 3671 Rock Creek Road and a second one is being built at 2551 Classen.
Some council members expressed concern that a new supercenter on Cedar Lane would “cannibalize” the supercenter on 12th Avenue. Jungman said the new Walmart would pull business from the Walmart on 12th Avenue and draw business away from other retailers.
Those in favor of the project said it would boost the city’s sales tax revenue considerably.
Blaine Nice, who represented the property owner, said Walmart officials have said they will not close the store on 12th Avenue.
“That store is overburdened. They want some customers to be drawn to the new store to alleviate some of the issues of the store on 12th,” Nice said.
Walmart chose the Cedar Lane location for a supercenter because it is one of the fastest-growing areas of the city, and residents in those developing neighborhoods need a grocery store, Nice said.
Walmart officials have worked with city planners to come up with a design that will minimize its impact on the residential neighborhoods, he said.
The grounds will be heavily landscaped, with multiple islands with trees, said civil engineer Terry Haynes. Columns, fencing and brickwork will soften the look of the building. Recreational vehicles will not be allowed to stay overnight, and trucks will be prohibited from idling in the parking lot, to minimize noise pollution, he said.
Traffic improvements to the intersection are underway, and the store won’t be built until the improvements are in place, Haynes said.
Trina Roberts, who lives nearby, said she is a disabled veteran whose sole asset is her house. She said she worries what the Walmart Supercenter will do to her property value.
Chuck Graves said the Walmart on 12th Avenue was not overburdened but rather understaffed. “They are building this store for their convenience, not mine,” he said.
Councilman Robert Castleberry said if the council did not approve the project, Walmart would move the store one mile south to Noble, and the city would lose about $200 million annually in sales tax revenue.
Former Councilman Hal Ezzell said the city stands to gain sales tax revenue as well as ad valorem tax money.
The 32-acre undeveloped plot now nets the city about $102 a year in ad valorem taxes, he said, but if developed it would bring in about $312,000.
Miller said the project “will benefit some and hurt others … but I have too many reservations about it to vote for it.”