Correction: A previous version of this article attributed a quote opposing the Walmart plan to Laura Catlett. This was actually said by Dottie Gray. Laura Catlett supports the redevelopment plan.
Correction 2: A previous version of this article misstated that the audit showed the city was running a $14,000 deficit. The actual deficit is $81,202 in the general fund and $96,098 in the capital improvements fund.
The Board of Aldermen heard from 15 residents Tuesday night who voiced opposition, support and skepticism for the proposed redevelopment of Kenrick Plaza and construction of a Walmart Supercenter.
The input from Shrewsbury citizens was one of the first items on the agenda. The majority of the 15 either raised concerns about the Walmart redevelopment or explicitly opposed it. Four residents gave it express support.
The chief concerns mentioned Tuesday by opponents of the plan were the potential increase in traffic through Shrewsbury residential streets and the closing of access to Watson Road for the Kenrick Manor subdivision that sits behind Kenrick Plaza. Other issues raised included a possible decrease in property values in the area and the effect the retail giant would have on other local businesses.
"The traffic will be horrendous. It's going to be very dangerous for people who live in Kenrick Manor," Dottie Gray said. "We really don't need Walmart. We don't want one in Shrewsbury."
Those supporting the redevelopment plan argued for the importance of the economic benefit of increased tax revenues and the revitalization of the blighted Kenrick Plaza.
"It means Shrewsbury will have the tax base to support all of its employees and all the firemen," said Joseph Manion. "The tax base in Shrewsbury needs the support of Walmart."
Still, other residents expressed concern about the number of unknowns in the redevelopment project. Richard Slais, one of the last people to address the council, said he was worried that by the time more concrete details are known it could be too late for the city to back out.
Mayor Felicity Buckley said that if such a dispute occurs, "that's why we have lawyers." She said that details such as the impact on traffic in the area and the amount of tax revenue generated will be addressed further along in the process.
The meeting's agenda also included an ordinance to begin steps toward planning a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District for the redevelopment and the swearing-in of new council member , who defeated incumbent on an anti-Walmart platform in the April election.
Buckley proposed that the board table the ordinance for hiring consultants to help plan the TIF because she said, "the scope of what we may be asking them to do may change." Rather than pass an ordinance that would then later need to be amended, she said it would be better to wait.
After the board voted to table the ordinance, the board swore in Wiecher as the new Ward 2 alderman member. Buckley praised Lauter for his tenure on the board.
"You enter into the ranks of those to whom the city is very indebted," she said.
In other business, the board:
- Received its annual financial audit for 2010 from Hochschild, Bloom and Company. Highlights from the report were presented to the council by firm representative Tammy Alsop. Alsop noted that, although the city managed to cut spending below budget by $34,706 , tax revenues also fell by $142,000. This shortfall was also offset by funds from a settlement with ATT U-verse, leaving the city with a deficit of $81,202 in the general fund and $96,098 in the capital improvement fund for 2010.
- Approved an amendment to the city's agreement with its financial adviser for the potential redevelopment of Kenrick Plaza. Buckley said the change expands the advisor's duties since she needs do more than the council originally expected.
- Approved an ordinance allowing the city to enter into a contract with Communications Technologies Inc. for work on the city's phone system.
- Approved an ordinance creating a new position for Assistant City Administrator/City Clerk John Greever. Greever's new title will be director of administration/city clerk with the position of assistant city administrator left vacant.
- Approved an ordinance setting minimum salary ranges for city employees. Buckley said the ordinance will not result in any changes.