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Anti-Wal-Mart signs

A sign on a fence near 27th Street and Grainger Parkway on June 18, 2012, proclaims a homeowner's feelings about Wal-Mart's plan to build a new store in the area. (GWYNETH ROBERTS/Lincoln Journal Star)

Neighbors opposed to a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter at 27th Street and Grainger Parkway in south Lincoln picked up a couple of allies Monday night.

At a neighborhood meeting to discuss the plans, City Council members Jon Camp and DiAnna Schimek both urged Wal-Mart to reconsider its plans.

"You really need to take this back to headquarters. You really need to reconsider this," said Schimek, who said she personally doesn't want a Wal-Mart at the location.

Camp said he would hate to see Wal-Mart "damage its reputation" in Lincoln over the site. He urged the company to consider putting one of its smaller neighborhood markets at the location rather than a supercenter.

"I think something like that would be a very winning formula for Wal-Mart," he said.

Wal-Mart has proposed building a 133,000-square-foot supercenter on the site, which would be its smallest in Lincoln. Plans are for the store to open in fall 2013.

The site, about a quarter mile north of the intersection of 27th Street and Yankee Hill Road, has been zoned for commercial development for a decade. However, a recent amendment approved by the city-county Planning Department paved the way for Wal-Mart to build a supercenter there.

Wal-Mart spokesman Ryan Irsik told the crowd the company had considered a number of different sites in south Lincoln and is committed to this one. He said a smaller neighborhood market "doesn't fit our business model at this location.

Neighbors, however, say it's a supercenter that doesn't fit.

Russ Ripa, a neighborhood resident who said he shops at Wal-Mart and is a "card-carrying Sam's Club member," said the site is not right for a big-box store.

A 24/7 business, with thousands of cars visiting every day and dozens of trucks making deliveries weekly would cause safety issues and lower residents' quality of life, Ripa said.

He said it's not about Wal-Mart and he wouldn't support a Best Buy, Home Depot, Cabela's or Super Saver there either.

"My feelings would be the same here if any one of these sites wanted to locate here," Ripa said.

He called the 27th and Grainger site "a prime example of poor city planning."

Hundreds of his neighbors seem to agree. More than 1,800 people, all living within one mile of the site, signed a petition saying they don't want a supercenter there.

Several people who spoke Monday night questioned why Wal-Mart doesn't locate its store at U.S. 77 and West Denton Road, where it earlier planned to build a supercenter. They pointed out that developers spent several million dollars, for which the city will have to reimburse them, on a promise from Wal-Mart to build there.

Irsik said Wal-Mart pulled out of the site because of the faltering economy and because the area wasn't developing as hoped. He said the company has no interest in the site now.

Though one neighbor, Mat Ellison, alleged Wal-Mart did not meet all the requirements in its application for an administrative amendment at the site, it's unclear whether the neighbors have any remedies, legal or otherwise, to try to force Wal-Mart to reconsider.

Camp and Schimek said they were willing to sit down with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission and Wal-Mart officials to discuss the issue further.

It's not clear, though, if Wal-Mart would be willing to do so. Asked whether the company would reconsider its plans, Irsik said, "At this time, no."

Reach Matt Olberding at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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