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7/13/2017 11:09:00 AM
Walmart cancels plans for store in Zionsville, puts land up for sale

Maria Leichty, Zionsville Times Sentinel Reporter

Walmart has dropped plans for a store in Zionsville, a company spokesman said. The 23 acres owned by Walmart on Michigan Road is up for sale, listed at $7.5 million.

“After much deliberation and consideration of several business factors, we have decided not to pursue development of a new store in Zionsville,” Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield said. “Since our original proposal, our customers’ needs have evolved and we are focused on improving our existing stores to meet the changing needs of our customers as well as new innovations to simplify how our customers shop.”

The Zionsville Walmart has been on the radar for more than a decade. Walmart first proposed the building just south of Michigan Road and Bennett Parkway in 2005 but the Zionsville Plan Commission denied the project – twice.

Many residents and merchants have opposed Walmart’s plans during the process, citing the number of thefts, assaults, accidents and other calls at a nearby Wal-Mart. Others claim the presence will cause local businesses to shutter and attract discount-oriented businesses.

The original plans included a shopping center that would feature 10 to 20 smaller retailers, with the Walmart building falling in Zionsville’s jurisdiction. An amendment to the plans moved the Walmart from a portion of the parcel that would need to be rezoned to an area already zoned B-2 commercial. The shopping center plans fell by the wayside due to the rezoning issues and focused on just the Walmart instead.

After the plans were continued for months, the first proposal was denied by the commission, which claimed it did not have jurisdiction since part of the land was in Hamilton County.

A “big-box” ordinance was passed during that time that limited a free-standing commercial retail building to a maximum gross floor area of 60,000 square feet and an integrated center to 125,000 square feet. The proposed Walmart Supercenter would be approximately 180,000 square feet. But since the original plans were filed before the ordinance had been passed, the plans were able to stand as they were. The size-limiting ordinance was originally proposed to the plan commission in late 2002 but was tabled.

Walmart sued after the first denial then sued again after the second denial in 2008. The first legal battle ended in the decision remanding the petition back to the plan commission in 2008. The second denial came quickly after the petition was renewed. This time the commission cited traffic, drainage and setback issues.

After suing for a second time, the six-year lawsuit accumulated in 2016 when Walmart won the drawn-out battle centered around disagreements of the depositions of two of the Zionsville Plan commissioners.

In June of last year, a Boone County Superior Court judge ruled that the plan commission did not comply with the 2008 order to again apply ordinance standards to Walmart’s petitions. In July, a primary plat and development plan were approved for a Walmart on the property.

After that, the project has not appeared on the plan commission’s agenda and the land was recently put up for sale.

Wayne DeLong, Zionsville’s director of economic planning and development, said all that can be said, without knowing the future use of the land, is that “a future investment in the real estate would have a positive impact to the TIF district.”

A letter of intent on the Walmartrealty website includes restrictions for any new concept plan, limiting the building to nothing higher than 22 feet and restricting use from a discount store, grocery story, gas station, movie theater, bowling alley, fitness center, adult book or video stores and other restrictions.

There are currently 130 Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores in Indiana.

“Although we no longer plan to build a new store in Zionsville, we are committed to continuing our growth and investment in Indiana,” a Walmart spokesman said.

In 2009, Walmart officials estimated they had spent more than $2 million on acquiring, designing and engineering the sit for development. Walmart did not respond to inquiries about current numbers, including legal costs, by deadline.

2017 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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