NORMAN — Some residents oppose Walmart's plans to build a neighborhood market in northwest Norman, but city officials say they can't deny a rezoning request just because someone doesn't like a business.
The council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to approve rezoning from agricultural to commercial use for about five acres of land on the northeast corner of 36th Avenue NW and Rock Creek Road. S&S Family Properties owns the land but plans to sell it to Walmart for construction of a combination service station and grocery store.
The property is surrounded by commercially zoned land and is intended for commercial use in the city's long-range land use plan, City Attorney Jeff Bryant said.
“You'd be hard-pressed to justify voting no on it,” Bryant said.
Councilmen Roger Gallagher and Tom Kovach voted against the rezoning. Kovach said he didn't think a Walmart grocery store was “the best and highest use” for the land.
Gallagher said the grocery store would be the seventh grocery store within a mile-and-a-half of each other once a planned Crest store is built on the east side of Interstate 35 on 24th Avenue NW. Duplicating businesses puts some of them out of business, he said.
Attorney Harold Heiple, who represents the property owners, said it would only be the second grocery store west of Interstate 35.
“I make no apologies for this request. The land has been for sale for three years, and Walmart is the first to show any interest in it,” Heiple said. “Whether you like Walmart or not is not what is before you today, and it is not the province of council to dictate the number of grocery stores or dentist offices or anything else that can be built in a free enterprise system.”