Traffic and environmental concerns have taken a back seat to business and social issues surrounding Wal-Mart’s expansion in Snohomish County.
Nonetheless, the retailer’s plans to open as many as four new stores in the county would affect roads and streams here.
Here’s a look at the issues surrounding proposed Wal-Marts in Stanwood, Smokey Point, south Everett and Mill Creek:
Easing traffic and saving a salmon restoration program involving hundreds of students are at the forefront at the Stanwood site near the intersection of 72nd Avenue NW and Highway 532.
Many intersections along 532 need upgrading. At 72nd, there are already too many vehicles during peak hours to meet minimum standards.
The city has nearly raised $876,300, mostly in grants, to fix the problem, said Bill Beckman, public works director.
But that’s not the only problem. Before a new Wal-Mart could be built, 268th Street NW, which cuts through the site, would need to be moved.
The city’s fixes to the intersection would ease backups, but not eliminate them, Beckman cautioned, because Highway 532 only has two lanes.
Long-range state transportation plans include someday widening the highway to four lanes. Until then, even a perfectly designed intersection will have limits, he said.
Former Stanwood High School teacher Don Bayes also worries what Wal-Mart will do to his beloved Church Creek, the rural stream that skirts the edge of the potential Wal-Mart site before flowing into Puget Sound.
Two decades ago, the stream was the first to be selected for Snohomish County’s stream keeper program. Bayes helped restore salmon runs there through a school district program that continues today.
“Everybody has worked hard for 20 years to protect that stream,” said Bayes, who had more than 1,700 students involved in various projects before his retirement in 2000.
He prefers low-density development on the property – preferably homes built in clusters – rather than large buildings with massive parking lots.
“It’s hard to say they’re going to be the one that breaks the bridge,” Bayes said of Wal-Mart. “But we’re reaching a critical point where we can’t maintain it as a viable stream.”
When folks around here worked for more than a year to scrape together money to build a new 172nd Street NE bridge over I-5, they did it to ease the gridlock that may have kept new businesses from locating in the Smokey Point area, pumping life into the economy.
“While Wal-Mart meets a need in certain aspects of our population, it’s not the place everyone is going to want to shop,” said Becky Foster, a Smokey Point resident and furniture store owner.
Foster is co-chairwoman of the grassroots group that convinced government officials to chip in $9 million to build the new I-5 bridge.
Although some fear the loss of smaller businesses, Arlington officials agree there is little controversy at the site, which already has retail zoning.
The city is negotiating with Wal-Mart, which has offered to pay $1.6 million, finish widening 172nd to five lanes along its property and help pay for a traffic signal at 43rd Avenue NE, a small street that now only heads north from 172nd.
It would then extend the street south to its store, said Paul Richart, Arlington’s city engineer.
There’s been no controversy about bringing Wal-Mart to south Everett, probably because the location was so shabby that anything new there is an improvement.
The retailer is coming to the west side of Evergreen Way just south of 112th Street SW, the site of a former junkyard and trailer park.
“It was definitely not what you would call an upscale part of town,” said Allan Giffen, Everett’s planning director.
Wal-Mart is agreed to improve the area by unearthing 500 feet of stream that’s been buried in a culvert for decades. Because the unnamed creek will meander over the site, it will be closer to 800 feet long. A wide buffer will shelter the creek and a wetland area on the property.
Wal-Mart will also help widen Evergreen Way to six lanes and make improvements to surrounding roads, Giffen said.
Wal-Mart will also pay $685,000 for adding more traffic mitigation, dollars Everett will spend on improving traffic flow in the city, Giffen added.
The second Wal-Mart in the Mill Creek area will be built directly across from Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy High School on land already zoned for retail.
A traffic study is planned and the company will have to negotiate with Snohomish County over traffic fees.
But the company, building on 132nd Street SE will be required to pay for a traffic light to serve the new store and the school.
It will also have to do some frontage work on 132nd and extend 39th Avenue SE south, opening a large swath of inaccessible land for future development.
Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.