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Brown Deer Village Board approves Wal-Mart financials

Trustees modify agreements to gain control over retailer

May 21, 2013

Brown Deer — Trustees on Monday approved the financial dealings underlying the sale of the vacant Lowe's building on Brown Deer Road to Wal-Mart, but not before altering the agreements to grant themselves more power to regulate the retailer.

Trustee Andrea Weddle-Henning was the lone Village Board member to vote against the financial deals that allow Lowe's to settle their debt with the village and lock in a guaranteed property value for Wal-Mart to pay taxes on.

"It's just not the best fit," Weddle-Henning said after the meeting. "We're a small community here, and what happened (at a recently closed location off 76th Street and Brown Deer Road) is going to move here."

The approved agreements terminate the original 2006 development agreement between Lowe's and the village, on the condition Lowe's pay the village $1.25 million to cover a portion of the outstanding debt payments on the $2.4 million the village took out to kickstart the Lowe's development. Wal-Mart will fund the remainder of those debt payments by paying taxes on a guaranteed property value of at least $11 million, as stated in the agreements.

All of the financial agreements approved Monday only take effect if the Plan Commission and Village Board later approve site and operational plans, and if the sale goes through between Lowe's and Wal-Mart.

Planning and Zoning Director Nate Piotrowski said he estimates Wal-Mart's plans will come before the Plan Commission and Village Board in July. Wal-Mart representatives said the store would bring between 250-300 jobs, a majority of them full-time, with approximately 30 managerial positions.

Trustees increase regulation

As the board was nearing its vote on the Wal-Mart financial agreement, trustee Tim Schilz pointed out that the agreement itself included several provisions which, if approved as part of the financial document, would have guaranteed Wal-Mart several uses for the store, such as a liquor store and pharmacy.

Trustees amended the agreements to strike out any language regarding specific uses like a grocery, liquor store and pharmacy, saying those uses will need to be debated and decided as the board later deliberates an operational agreement to regulate the retailer.

While Wal-Mart lawyer Debbie Tomczyk said new stores are typically planned to include alchohol and firearm sales, trustees indicated both would be off the table as talks continue.

"We don't allow (alcohol) at Walgreens and I'm not planning on allowing it here," Schilz said.

Village President Carl Krueger said simply, "there will be no guns sold in Brown Deer."

"If that's someting the village wants," Tomczyk said of the gun sale prohibition, "we would be willing to have that discussion."

Comparison drawn to closed store

Residents and trustees wanted to know how the retailer could keep a Brown Deer store from resembling the recently closed store near 76th Street and Brown Deer Road on Servite Drive.

"We have spent the last ten years trying to get the perception of Brown Deer away from what Milwaukee is," said resident and Lowe's site neighbor Betty Bennett to applause from residents in attendance. "I see Wal-Mart coming in and setting us back."

Bennett, like the other residents in attendance, questioned whether Wal-Mart could put an end to the disrepair and poor service which, they said, plagued the location on Servite Drive. They also expressed concerns over potential increases in crime, disturbances and traffic.

Police Chief Steven Rinzel said his department is collecting crime statistics on area Walmarts and that the retailer has been receptive to working with Brown Deer police to minimize disruptions.

Wal-Mart representatives said their inability to build a grocery into the Servite Drive store was the driving purpose behind relocating to Silver Spring Drive and 103rd Street. They contended that a focus on management and more upscale merchandizing would create a North Shore appeal and differentiate the location from the Servite Drive store — which they acknowledged had problems.

"We need to man up to it and fix it," Wal-Mart Public Affairs Manager Lisa Nelson said. "Serving customers in the North Shore is going to be extremely important to us."

Krueger emphasized the control the Village Board will have over Wal-Mart in the coming deliberations.

"It goes back to the type of store they were running up there (on Servite)," Krueger said, "and we're going to make sure that's not the type of store they'll be running here, through the operational agreement."

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