Tuesday, Nov. 8


Is there a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Lincoln's future?          Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 8, 2005]  Everyone is wondering, is Lincoln getting a Wal-Mart Supercenter or not? Movement since the potential project was first made known to the public has been slow.

City officials and an attorney for Wal-Mart took more steps toward resolving a development agreement during last night's specially called finance committee meeting.

It was last spring when the company approached the city with an interest in annexing and rezoning a property into the city and an offer to assist with infrastructure developments in the building process. The company had narrowed its search to property that is currently farm ground, located behind the Illini Bank on Route 10.

The process has been slow but purposeful for both the city and Wal-Mart representatives. Engineers and lawyers from both sides have made numerous stipulations and concessions during the months of planning and negotiations. Changes have been made even since alderman received their last updated agreement on Oct. 21, Bates said.

Wal-Mart has not purchased the property yet, and this raised questions from Wanda Lee Rohlfs and other aldermen at last night's meeting. Rohlfs questioned whether there is anything in the agreement with Wal-Mart to protect city interests if the company didn't build but left developable land sitting empty or if there were provisions that would keep them from building on the property for someone else.

Lincoln city attorney Bill Bates and the Wal-Mart attorney, Troy Pudik of Peoria, explained details of the agreement and its progression. Both lawyers assured the council that it is standard protocol for Wal-Mart not to purchase property until late in the process. They typically act quickly when details are worked out. When everything is ready they run with it, Bill Bates said and Pudik confirmed.

"They are still working on acquiring the land and working their numbers," Bates said.

In assurance that the company is most interested in the expansion in Lincoln, Pudik said, "It's an excellent project for Wal-Mart."

He added later, "Wal-Mart wants to get up and going as soon as possible."

A primary issue in the agreement was a request from Wal-Mart that the city rebate the city portion of sales taxes that are over and above the average amount collected in the last three years, up to an accumulated $600,000 plus interest. This has been amended to a straight $600,000 rebate and, at the recommendation of Bates, the committee found this acceptable.

Early projections indicate that this would take five years. During that time the city would continue to receive the level of sales taxes that they are receiving now, and once the rebate amount was reached the city would begin receiving the full amount of sales taxes.

City engineer Mark Mathon said that he has seen in detail how they arrived at the requested figure and it is reasonable.

The rebate will help Wal-Mart recoup some of the expense that they are offering to accept in developing infrastructure going to their site. In the agreement they have offered to take responsibility to install sewer lines, drainage, roads and waterlines. There would need to be some costly moves made to the sewer lines running to current businesses as well as the additional extension to their site.

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Route 10 would need left-hand lane work, intersections would need widening, and Malerich Drive would need to be extended. The entrance to the Illico-Illini Bank building would be improved with the addition of a short drive, to be called Stuart Drive.

Wal-Mart will also be adding two detention ponds at their own expense for their needs.

Crawford, Murphy and Tilly of Springfield is the engineering company for the project.

The development of this infrastructure would not only benefit Wal-Mart. Details such as including driveway entries to empty lots would contribute to the development of other business properties in the area. Certain types of businesses are known to follow Wal-Mart Supercenters, and this would make it easier for the city to attract them.

They will be going to great expense on what will be public property improvements, Bates said.

Another bonus to the city is that if and when Wal-Mart purchases the land they are interested in buying, there is an additional 29 acres that they will not be using. The city asked for that property to be turned over to them for future commercial development. Details of that arrangement have undergone several modifications that, as of this week, allow the city more latitude with the use of the property. If need be, the city now has the opportunity to dispose of the property, as in sell or give -- just as was done in the Sysco project -- to another party.

The city is not at any risk to lose any money, Bates said.

The one investment the city is making is for an upgrade of the area sewer lift station called Zion. However, this is a project that is already in process and must be done anyway, Bates said.

The Zion lift station is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, 2006. Bids for that project are coming in now.

The agreement is full of timelines and limitations that protect both Wal-Mart and the city. It ensures that Wal-Mart will begin and finish building by specific dates.

In the agreement it says that Wal-Mart would begin building by Dec. 21, 2007.

Discussion of the final plat and a development agreement were tabled during the regular business session that followed the committee meeting.

Bates said that this would allow more time for questions from the aldermen and then completion of the agreement.

The project will be discussed at the Nov. 15 work session, with the intention of passing the agreement and the final plat at the Nov. 21 business session.

[Jan Youngquist]

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