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Thread: Your dealings with Walmart and Home Depot

  1. #1
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Your dealings with Walmart and Home Depot

    Hi everyone,

    I just got the un-nerving call that many small town planners fear... Guess who's coming to dinner...

    WALMART & THE HOME DEPOT!!!

    I am meeting with them on Monday to discuss their site plan for tree preservation and zoning issues. Do any of you have any advice from your dealings with them in the past?

    I'm also looking for examples of tastfully done versions of these stores so that way I can say "Look, you've done this before..." We don't have any design regulations aside from a 100% masonry requirement and sign ordinance, so I'm pretty much stuck asking nicely for things. Our tree preservation/mitigation is pretty tough, so at least I have that to work with.

    Any advice or humorous comments is appreciated!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  2. #2
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    Any advice or humorous comments is appreciated!
    Call in sick Monday.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Home Depot:
    Bartlett, IL - ok, but better than the standard
    Fort Collins, Co - fairly nice architecture
    Lake Geneva, Wi - I have pics of this one.

    Wal-Mart:
    Is there a well designed Wal-Mart?
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    This is the Lake Geneva, WI Home Depot:


    Awnings, and pilasters along a service drive side. This side doesn't face any other developed properties and is not highly visibile from any ROW.
    Last edited by boiker; 10 Jul 2004 at 11:43 AM.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    been there, done that, kinda fun

    First things first: do your research. Find out the developers' and staffs' names and then Google those suckers. Call communities where they've done projects before to get the inside scoop on their tactics, strengths, weaknesses, favorite donuts, etc.

    If you back them into the corner on a site plan issue, they are likely to try and "buy" their way out of it. Think long term community benefits here, and tell them to PPO. (Don't forget to smile when you say that.)

    If their site or sites require any infrastructure that benefit their projects only, with no potential for benefit of other properties - mandate that it remain privately owned, operated and maintained infrastructure. They'll hate you, but your public works department and taxpayers will thank you. You may have to do some hand-holding here such as pointing out local firms they can contract out the infrastructure maintanence to.

    If you have a nearby downtown with an revitalization organization, WM and other big box retailers will financially support those efforts. Hell, they've even been known to provide direction signs at their exits to point traffic to the CBD. Make sure the downtown folks make any requests after land use approvals are final.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
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    Expect the absoulte minimum as required by your regulations

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    Home Depot:
    Wal-Mart:
    Is there a well designed Wal-Mart?
    I think I saw I picture of one in Napa, California in one of their adds. It's probably a fake done in photoshop

    There may be hope that they do more than the bare minimum considering some of the wickedly bad press development has been getting around these parts (had a developer in THE TOWN NEXT DOOR level a 300ac hilltop of trees and defended it saying 'they were grandfathered'. The media frenzy was something to behold.).

    These two stores are going in near a beautifully designed grocery store that saved nearly all of the hardwood trees larger than 6" that were not in the building footprint. I think they only had to mitgate 30" worth of trees. Maybe they will look to it for some guidance...yeah...probably not

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    One of the reason's I left my last job was to avoid round 2 with those jokers.

    1) Find out everything you can about their consultants, what other things they've done and how have they turned out. Low prices extends to these fools also.

    2) Make sure you have the By-laws ready for them and highlight items. Their consultants tend to try get you to do lots for them and have really poor reading comprehension. (See 1)

    3) Make sure that you set the ground rules for submissions and justification reports at the first meeting (See 2)

    4) As for donuts, give them the stale ones from yesterday (See item 1, they are used to pinching pennies).

    5) Look at other "nice" big box locations nearby, use them as the starting point. One of teh joys of a rezoning is that we ussually get to attach some terms and condtions to it, horse trading works also.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  8. #8
         
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    Non-prototype Home Depot

    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    I'm also looking for examples of tastfully done versions of these stores so that way I can say "Look, you've done this before..." We don't have any design regulations aside from a 100% masonry requirement and sign ordinance, so I'm pretty much stuck asking nicely for things. Our tree preservation/mitigation is pretty tough, so at least I have that to work with.

    Any advice or humorous comments is appreciated!
    My City recently approved a non-prototype Home Depot that involved the disturbance of approximately 13 acres with approximately 147,000 cubic yards of cut and 71,000 cubic yards of fill, the realignment of a creek (Corps jurisdictional waterway), removal of over 200 trees.

    When HD submitted preliminary prototypical elevations I asked for and received elevations complementary to our Sierra Nevada Foothill environment. These elevations included timber trusses, gabled roof canopies, stone veneer columns. The Planning Commission and City Council raved about the compatible aesthetic appearance. We conditioned the project to require replacement of native oak and pine at a ratio of 2:1 to the amount removed.

    My point is, ask for what you want.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Don't let them design in a vacuum, either. Like Woonerf said, if there's a vernacular they can use, make them use it. In the same vein, if there are any bus routes nearby, sidewalks, etc, use 'em. Ours put in bus stops.
    I don't dream. I plan.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Ours always came in with local planners/attorneys we had worked with a lot, so it was less painful. They seemed to have fairly broad powers of negotation, not on the buildings, but on the rest of the site design. Home Depot was really very good about tree replacement, when pressured just a little.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    I wasn't here at the time, but I heard second hand that Home Depot was a major pain in the a$$ to work with when they were looking to build in my city. In all I think we got the setbacks and required plantings but got zero deviation from their corporate architecture.

    I would suggest contacting the town of Mt. Pleasant, SC. It's a booming burb (pop. of about 50,000) of Charleston that has very strict design standards that resulted in both Wal-Mart and Lowes Home Improvement building exceptionally nice structures there.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I would also do whatever you can to prohibit 'no compete' deed restrictions on the building and land. My sense is that this is one of the biggest obstacles to re-using 'big box' structures (or ANY commercial structures, for that matter) when the original occupants move on.

    Mike

  13. #13

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    re Home Depot: make sure your conditions of approval are clear about the location and extent of outdoor storage. They have a tendency to stack things everywhere.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    re Home Depot: make sure your conditions of approval are clear about the location and extent of outdoor storage. They have a tendency to stack things everywhere.
    Lee's comment is right on target. We saw this happen in a nearby town and were ready for it and have been pleased that "seasonal sale/display areas" have worked as intended. Of course, they show a parking field on their site plans but never a cart-return area (which always ends up consuming parking).

    We required WM to include and develop connectors to lots north and south, complete with sidewalks, and now that those other parcels are developing, it will be possible to go nearly 3/4 mile from one development to another all along private property without entering the major arterial street. I understand from one of the adjacent private developers that WM was a bit difficult to work with in regards to a planned tenant that WM didn't like, but that was apparently overcome.

    HD has been easy to work with, although their engineers on this project were incapable of dealing with our steep slopes.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  15. #15
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    I agree with the comment about outdoor storage (for both projects). If you don't already have a big-box ordinance, now's the time to get it going! We held our ground on our regs and were able to get pedestrian areas, benches, lots of trees, facade, etc. Once they realized we weren't flexing on everything they weren't bad to work with at all. (Of course, you'll no doubt get the threat that they'll go somewhere else if you don't flex, so you'll need to be prepared to either hold your ground and face the wrath of politicians and economic development types, or flex and accommodate). For the second Wal-Mart, there was an attempt to get annexed into an adjoining community without a big-box ordinance - it's tied up in litigation so we'll see what happens. Good luck! o

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    My meeting with them went surprisingly well this morning. The engineer they are working with has a good reputation in the area and a history of decent efforts at tree preservation. They said that they were looking at a fancier facade than normal due to our demographics and area architecture, and would bring something in for me to eyeball before going forward. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it.

    You should have seen their reaction on the tree preservation requirements We don't allow for off-site/fees-in-lieu, so they have to mitgate all trees removed on-site. They are also having a little heartburn over the sign requirements, which is legit considering the regs weren't written with 100,000+ s.f. stores in mind. Surprisingly, they didn't flip out on the monument sign requirement, probably because their buildings are on a hilltop and will be very visible from the road anyway.

    They will have to go through a zoning change, which will force them to take public opinion into account.

    I'm feeling a little better now that I know more about the project. At least they haven't asked for tax abatements...yet...

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    This Is Kitsch!!!

    This is the Lake Geneva, WI Home Depot:
    http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery/data...08_Medium_.JPG

    You guys really think that's much of an improvement? Its stage-set architecture. Its putting parsley around the pig! Its such a superficial treatment of the problem. If you have to have big boxes, put green roofs on them, plant the hell out of the parking lot and around the building, and use constructed wetlands for runoff treatment. Just swath the thing in vegetation. At least you'll be replacing some lost habitat. That's something steel awnings and ornamental dodads can't do. Don't let them bully you into clearing all the vegetation so that the building is highly visible from the road. A town near me made them (Home Depot) construct a 20' berm that effectively hides much of the building.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Glad your meeting went well. All the suggestions so far are good. Generally the engineer will be your main contact and they work with the architect on a parallel and coordinated track. Ask for alot expect less. The letter of your code is the miniumum requirement, and stipulations are negotiable. If you lack support from your electeds you might find out the ugly way how negotiable they are when they remove the stips and approve.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    We are in the process of getting our Wal-Mart and they have fought us on just about everything, tried to get variances, and we stood up to them and won. It will not be as great as we would like it, but we can only require what our ordinance regulates.

    As for the Depot… that is another story. They have been here since I have been here, and we have had all sorts of problems with them when it comes to out side storage, noise, and trash and debris.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  20. #20
    From what I have heard from local planners, Wal Mart pushes signage like crazy. They will try and bribe your community with promises of donations for youth activity, 4th of july parades, and other civic activities. They figure that communities are cash-strapped. To a City a $1000 donation for athletic supplies is a big deal. To wal mart it is like giving a homeless person a dime. 1000 bucks is nothing to them. Stick to your signage requirements.

    Also, make sure you check their materials once the start. In one local situation they tried using different materials than they showed the Plan Commission.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  21. #21
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man
    From what I have heard from local planners, Wal Mart pushes signage like crazy. They will try and bribe your community with promises of donations for youth activity, 4th of july parades, and other civic activities. They figure that communities are cash-strapped. To a City a $1000 donation for athletic supplies is a big deal. To wal mart it is like giving a homeless person a dime. 1000 bucks is nothing to them. Stick to your signage requirements.

    Also, make sure you check their materials once the start. In one local situation they tried using different materials than they showed the Plan Commission.
    Even after approval and COs you have to keep on top of enforcement. Especially the new supercenters w/ gas stations. Banners, crap signs , etc galore!
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man
    To a City a $1000 donation for athletic supplies is a big deal. To wal mart it is like giving a homeless person a dime. 1000 bucks is nothing to them.
    Off-topic:
    All of the big boxes waive their potential community donations as a carrot befort the community. RM is right, to them it's nothing. The local independant retailers they drive from local markets give a higher percentage of gross revenues to their communities than WM or the others ever have, or ever will.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    In my town, part of their approvals included no outdoor storage...well who has seen a WalMart or HomeDepot without outdoor storage? Both just do what they want... and pay the fines as it is worth it for them to pay the fines (thousands of dollars) then go without the outdoor storage.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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  24. #24
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Update!

    Here's an update following last night's city council meeting...

    Walmart was dropped from the proposal sometime back due to public outcry (and they didn't like the site that much anyway).

    Home Depot came in as a special use permit. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted it down 6-0 with one abstaining. The City Council affirmed the recommendation of P&Z, voting to deny the SUP 3-2. No matter what side people were on with this, the process was good for the city. For once, people in this little bedroom community took some real interest in what was going on. In a city of 5,000, I got 610 hits from seperate IP addresses for a non-scientific online poll conducted on the city website. We had about 150 people show up at the City Council public hearing last night.

    Now, for the part that bothers me. This developer was really trying hard to address all of the concerns that the public had. They were willing to use materials and architecture that reflect the surroundings, subject to the City's approval. They were willing to fix one of our major traffic problem areas. Even with the Dark Sky Ordinance, they were going to be lit well below the max level and were going to shut off 75% of the lights after closing. Rather than a buffer, they were going to place several acres between the Home Depot and the residential area in a nature preserve dedicated to the city. Taking the entire development into account, impervious cover was only going to be about 55%. I'm hoping that something else doesn't come in that will not require a SUP since our current ordinance doesn't give us the same level of control that we had with the SUP. I'm kind of excited that our city took a stand against big-boxes personally, but I'm not entirely sure this was the correct decision. There's a lot of property outside our city limits that this thing could locate on and the city would have no say and still be impacted by all the negatives.

    At least the people got involved, which is a nice change from the past. I don't know if this was the right decision, but at least they put a lot of thought into it before they decided.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  25. #25
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    They just keep coming...but what about the impacts?

    Do these companies plan on attacking cities in tandem, or is it just coincidence? Both are on thier way into Juneau, AK...Wal-Mart is taking over an abandoned K-Mart (on illegal wetland fill, the selling price more than made up for the puny fines levied against the original owner) and its rediculously oversized parking lot. Home Depot is negotiating with the city to buy 10 acres in a nearly expired city gravel pit.

    At least there won't be any new clearing or wetland disturbance for either of the projects. Of course Fred Meyer, our only big-box besides Costco, is trying to beat both of them to the punch with a massive 60,000 square-foot plus expansion to their existing building...It's like watching a soap-box derby where none of the cars have breaks, and the hill just gets steeper and steeper...

    We have no design regulations outside of our historic district (thankfully neither project is anywhere near the historic area), and rumor has it that Wal-Mart is already trying to get around our sign standards...I'm just thankful that I'm not the contact for the project (yet).

    My question for the forum has to do with establishing impact fees for project like these. We know that their development schedules are much faster than we could hope to have an impact assessment fee system in place, but several of the intersections that will be impacted by Fred Meyer's expansion, the re-opening of the Mart building, the new Home Depot, and a handful of other project by local developers (16 retail lots here, 40 condos there, a new mobile home park in between) are already operating at an abysmal level.

    Everyone from the developers (local and big box alike) to the State DOT and various city departments are about to jump through their skin at the thought of how bad the traffic will be if all of these projects go through, but nobody can figure out how to get everyone to pay their fair share. The first step is, of course, to do traffic studies, but rather than doing one comprehensive study all the developers have already started their own studies (which will certainly all minimize the potential impacts of each project).

    To say the least, we're feeling a little overwhelmed. Any advice would be appreciated.

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