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Publish Date: 5/10/2005

Super-surprise: Two Wal-Marts
Corporation plans Sam’s Club, second Supercenter on Colo. Highway 119

LONGMONT — Wal-Mart plans to build a second Supercenter store, along with a Sam’s Club discount warehouse, just inside the city’s eastern boundary.

The two stores would be erected at the southwest corner of Colo. Highway 119 and County Line Road, on the Weld County side of the line but within city limits.

Wal-Mart has not yet filed an official application with the city, nor held a required public meeting before submitting its proposal. But city planning director Brad Schol and his staff met with Wal-Mart representatives Monday morning.

“It’s an official ‘gonna, maybe’ be an application,” Schol said. “I got the indication they would try and have documents submitted to us within the next one to two months.”

If approved, the development would be the first Longmont stores in Weld County and could represent an effort by the city to protect its eastern boundary from the rapidly growing southwest Weld County.

The buildings and their 681 parking spaces would be adjacent to the city’s pristine Sandstone Ranch park. Wal-Mart is already building a Supercenter at the northeast corner of Colo. Highway 66 and U.S. Highway 287.

While rumors of such a plan have been an open secret within the development and planning community for several months, no one was willing to publicly confirm them.

As recently as Friday, Scott Strong, who owns the land where the stores would be built, declined to comment.

The land is already annexed into the city and zoned for this kind of shopping center. That means the process could be much quicker than the approval for the under-construction Supercenter.

The Longmont City Council would likely still be required to approve the project. That’s because even though such a project technically needs only approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, any resident can object to the commission’s decision and force the council to decide the matter.

Schol said store representatives indicated they want to build the Sam’s Club first, but have both stores open sometime next year.

The Supercenter project at U.S. Highway 287 and Colo. Highway 66 was the subject of hours of discussion and debate by the planning commission and the council. That store was approved in October 2004, and some residents are still upset.

Glenn Spagnuolo was one of the fiercest critics of the proposal, arguing that the city should avoid welcoming Wal-Mart on philosophical and moral grounds.

City leaders spend hours wringing their hands over stimulating Main Street, Spagnuolo said, but simultaneously welcome “donut development,” where a city’s core is emptied by shoppers flocking to megastores on the outskirts.

“We didn’t need one Supercenter. And now we’re going to have two?,” Spagnuolo said. “Everybody travels to the outside and your middle drops out. That’s going to create a great amount of urban blight.”

During the approval for the first Supercenter, Wal-Mart officials said they always believed the city could support two stores. They also said they hoped to keep open their existing store at the Twin Peaks Mall. That store’s fate was unknown Monday.

Wal-Mart representatives did not return phone calls made Monday after 5 p.m.

Developer David Chaknova, who has no interest in the new Wal-Mart project, said he thinks the city will see an explosion of retail developments over the next few years.

Chaknova is working to develop land in the area of the proposed Sam’s Club and Supercenter.

“I think the retail is starting to catch up. There were homes built for many years, and now the retail is starting to catch up,” Chaknova said. “And I think the city wants to protect its sales tax base from other cities to the east and to the north.”

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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