Friday, August 04, 2000

Planners approve Ft. Wright Wal-Mart

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT WRIGHT — The Kenton County and Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, despite an outcry from residents, voted Thursday night to recommend to Fort Wright City Council that it approve construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter near the intersection of Madison and Highland pikes.

        Nearly three dozen Fort Wright residents spoke out against the Wal-Mart proposal, most saying that traffic on Madison Pike would worsen. Four residents spoke in favor of the Wal-Mart proposal.

        Fort Wright City Council will vote this month on the commission's recommendation.

        The proposed site covers 240,000 square feet — roughly the size of three football fields.

        Most of the original crowd of about 140 people sat through all 41/2 hours of citizen input and commissioners' debate.

        The crowd was bigger than anticipated, and board Chairman Tim Theissen changed the meeting place from the original site in Fort Mitchell to Lakeside Christian Church nearby.

        “It's like trying to fit an elephant into a mouse hole,” Mike Arnold, a Fort Wright resident for 20 years, said about the possible traffic complications. “I don't understand why we have to double what is already a traffic and safety nightmare. (Building the Wal-Mart) will have a significant and negative impact.”

        Some residents complained about the bright lights that would shine from a 24-hour store with more than 1,000 parking spaces. s But most stuck to traffic as their main concern.

        “I'm not opposed to development, but I am opposed to a 240,000-square-foot supercenter,” said Dan Warning, a lifelong Fort Wright resident. “The impact of a store that size on traffic is phenomenal. I don't live in Fort Wright because there is a Wal-Mart here. I live here because it's a beautiful place, and I want it to stay that way.”

        Wal-Mart developers are working with the commission to improve the traffic conditions.

        “Wal-Mart has taken a lot of hits tonight for a lot of different things,” said James W. Berling of B&Z Development, the store's developers. “But we are the only entity in this area that has done something to help the traffic.”

        Fort Wright Administrator Larry Klein said the city's No. 1 concern is the impact Wal-Mart would have on traffic. The land was already properly zoned for the development.


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