The City Council on Monday delayed making a decision on a rezoning application that would allow a third Wal-Mart grocery store in the city.
The council voted 4-2 to table the Wal-Mart issue, but it appears opponents are fighting an uphill battle to defeat the measure. Only Councilman Tim Thomas, who represents the area, came out against the measure.
“I am in favor of growing our city, but I do believe we’ve got to control our growth,” he said. “Those people out there do not want this Wal-Mart in their neighborhood.”
Thomas originally made a motion to defeat the rezoning, and Councilman Clifford Holmes seconded it. But then Holmes said he only seconded it to open the issue for discussion and his comments seemed to be supportive of the rezoning. He said residents around the two Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market stores that opened last year opposed those stores but are now shopping there.
“I personally think it ought to be pulled off the agenda tonight and some more work done on it,” Holmes said.
Thomas then made another motion to table the issue until the next meeting, and that was approved with Councilman Mike Davis and Councilman Keith Lauritsen opposing.
In the pre-council meeting, the council members heard a repeat of arguments from both sides that were made at last week’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Michelle Herron, representing the opponents, said the store would create a safety hazard because it is adjacent to Eagle Springs Elementary School.
David Kirk, an attorney representing Wal-Mart, said the company has agreed to relocate an entrance on Arrie Road, which separates the store and the school, to make it more compatible with school traffic.
He said the store would employ 90-100 people and would have a pharmacy and fuel pumps.
Glenn Wilkins, a Wal-Mart spokesman who attended the meeting, said after the vote that the company is willing to work with the City Council to address any issues.
Thomas said after the meeting he would like to see if Wal-Mart would be willing to eliminate the Arrie Road entrance.
That wasn’t the only hotly contested issue the council addressed Monday.
After a spirited debate in the pre-council meeting, the council voted 4-2 in favor of a resolution that would create its own development authority. Davis and Lauritsen also voted against that motion, expressing concerns it would conflict with the Houston County Development Authority.
But Thomas, the chief proponent of the resolution, said the city and county authorities would serve different functions and would not be in competition.
Also at the meeting, the council tabled a vote on a proposal to increase the local vendor bidder preference from 5 percent to 10 percent. City Attorney Jim Elliott asked for more time to address certain legal issues, including the definition of local vendor.
Also, the council unanimously approved its budget for the coming year, with does not raise taxes but is balanced by tapping into the reserve fund.