Brown Deer — A planned Walmart at the former Lowe's site on the 6300 block of Brown Deer Road is likely, pending sale of the property between the two retailers and negotiations with the village Community Development Authority.
Walmart is planning to expand the approximately 130,000 square foot Lowe's building to about 150,000 square feet to accommodate a full grocery and pharmacy in addition to the typical layout.
Serving the North Shore
Wisconsin Regional Manager and Mequon resident Mitch Cox said the nearby location off Brown Deer Road and 76th Street, recently relocated to Silver Spring and 103rd Street, took its customer base with it. He said the Brown Deer location would stock more upscale merchandise compared to other Walmarts, in an effort to target area customers.
"We need to serve the North Shore customer," Cox said, "and we haven't."
On Monday, Walmart representatives, village officials and a crowd of residents gathered for what Walmart billed as a "neighborhood meeting to present the project and seek community input."
A majority of residents at the meeting either opposed the idea of a Walmart on the site or had reservations. Some, expecting the event to resemble a typical village meeting with a detailed presentation and public comment period, took issue with the lack of information and apparent lack of note taking by company representatives.
Striking a deal
The village's main stake in the site is its $2.4 million investment, which was approved in 2006 to jump start the Lowe's project. Even after Lowe's closed its doors in 2011, a guaranteed value provision of the development agreement has compelled the company to pay taxes on an above-market property value. For instance, the site is currently valued in the range of $4 to $5 million, whereas the agreement has Lowe's paying taxes on a value of around $15.5 million.
By the time the tax incremental financing agreement expires in several years, the guaranteed value will rise to approximately $18 million.
In closed session Wednesday afternoon, the Community Development Authority will attempt to strike a deal with Lowe's and Walmart to reclaim the revenue Lowe's would pay over the next several years based on the guaranteed value provision of the original 2006 agreement. Officials said the goal of the negotiations will be for Walmart to pay taxes on a guaranteed value likely less than what Lowe's had agreed to ($18 million); Lowe's, then, would need to pay a lump sum of the difference in property taxes over the lifetime of the agreement.
If the CDA approves an agreement Wednesday, it would come to the Village Board next week for consideration. If the sale goes through between Lowe's and Walmart, site plans and an operational agreement would have to go through both the Plan Commission and Village Board in public meetings before Walmart could break ground.
Since the site was zoned to accommodate a big box retailer like Lowe's, the village will not need to rezone to accommodate Walmart.
Officials commented that it is not within their power to obstruct the sale of property between Lowe's and Walmart, saying that if the sale occurs, they can really only regulate through the site plan and operational agreement.
"Those are the things we have control over," Trustee Tim Schilz said. "How they present themselves and how they operate."
"We, as a village or a government, can't say, 'you can't sell to that person,'" Village Manager Michael Hall said.
Residents in attendance, the majority of whom opposed the Walmart outright or had mixed feelings, expressed concerns over traffic, safety and impact to local property values.
"No matter what everyone says about those stores, when they come in, there's always a disturbance," said resident James Kochamski, who lives just north of the Lowe's site.
Others took issue with the nature of the meeting itself, criticizing the lack of information and questioning whether their input would make any difference, with the sale of the property so close.
"I think of tonight's meeting as a dog and pony show," resident Leah Roberts said.
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