A commercial center might work southwest of the U.S. 18-151 bypass, but not with a big-box store, alders told a developer Monday.
Welton Enterprises’ plan to develop part of a 95-acre tract along Valley Road – called The Valley – got some positive reactions from the Common Council, just as it had a week earlier with the Plan Commission, but also drew concerns about traffic and environmental impact.
Alders particularly liked the idea of a future medical center, which has been planned on that Dean/SSM Health-owned property for more than a decade and would not be part of Welton’s development. Some also agreed with putting housing next to the wetlands that are northwest of the property.
The developer’s president and vice president sat quietly in the front row while alders brought up congestion on the bypass, the planned bridge over the highway, the high school that’s being constructed, potential impact to the Sugar River, affordable housing and busing.
The plan is “high-level,” as city planning director and interim administrator Adam Sayre put it, and lists potential features in the 48-acre commercial center, including retail stores of 100,000 square feet or more, a hotel, a grocery, office buildings and smaller multi-tenant retail buildings.
Four alders and the mayor specifically stated they would not support a big-box store on the property, but alders were generally open to the other ideas.
While some on the Plan Commission were concerned the previous week with the density of housing in the 21-acre residential area – which suggests as many as 700 units – alders seemed more interested in whether those units would include some below market rate. Welton president Kurt Welton was not asked to speak, but he had told the commission he was open to such ideas, and he asked whether the city could contribute financially toward such a plan.
He had also told the commission this process was exploratory, that the only deal it had with the landowner was for an option on the land if the market and the city’s preferences happen to work out.
The land is part of the city’s Southwest Area, most of which is not within city limits but was approved in 2012 by the state for possible development through connection to sewer service. Its complex, three-year approval process included a $100,000 study of stormwater standards in the area and a six-month evaluation by a 25-member panel of experts, which eventually resulted in the county tightening its commercial standards for stormwater runoff.
The approved neighborhood plan has three main components – a clinic and complementary housing in an area north of Valley Road, mostly single-family housing east of Hwy. 69 and industrial or business park development south of Valley Road.