Wal-Mart again attempting to build in Zionsville

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has filed new plans to build a store along Michigan Road in Zionsville, six years after the town rebuffed its original proposal that drew the ire of local residents and merchants.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer wants to build a roughly 150,000-square-foot store on about 23 acres along Michigan Road and 106th Street straddling the Boone-Hamilton county line.

Wal-Mart owns the property, which is the same parcel the company attempted to build on in 2006.

Then, Michigan developer Heritage RDG LLC proposed a much larger 300,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Walmart Supercenter along Michigan Road north of 106th Street.

Heritage attempted to rezone the property, which the Zionsville Town Council denied. The developer altered the plans to avoid a rezoning, prompting councilors to pass an ordinance limiting the size of a free-standing retail building to 60,000 square feet.

Because Wal-Mart’s current plans call for a store more than twice that size, a variance would be needed, said Wayne DeLong, Zionsville’s director of planning and economic development.

The Zionsville Plan Commission is set to consider the proposal at its Oct. 15 meeting, which should draw plenty of interest from local residents.

“Any project of this size is going to intrigue folks that are near and in proximity to the project,” DeLong said. “I can’t say if there will be more or less interest than before. I would certainly think there would be some interest given the history.”

DeLong is unsure how long it might take for Wal-Mart to receive approval, if a variance is granted.

Meanwhile, approval of Wal-Mart’s proposal could end a long-running dispute between the company and the town that led to two lawsuits.

The latest, filed by Wal-Mart in June 2008, is still pending in Boone Superior Court and charges that the commission had no legal basis to deny the store.

Several residents and merchants voiced their displeasure with the proposed store, charging that it would hurt the charm and small-town feel of the historic village.

But judging from the current plans submitted by Wal-Mart, which depict a brick façade and plenty of landscaping, Julie Johns Cole, executive director of the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce, said her organization might be more receptive to the project.

“Overall, our feelings are very positive,” she said. “The residents would benefit from the commercial investment and from competition on groceries and retail items.”

Joe Calderon, a partner at Indianapolis law firm Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, is representing Wal-Mart. He could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Wal-Mart’s nearest store to the proposed site is about two miles south, on 86th Street just east of Michigan Road.

The site would position Wal-Mart near its main rival, SuperTarget, southeast of 106th Street and Michigan Road.

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