BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The Bossier City Council voted Tuesday to rezone a property in North Bossier for a new Walmart to be built.
The land, which is at the corner of Wemple Rd. and Airline Dr., north of I-220, was annexed by the council back in June.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) then voted to rezone the land to commercial a week later, but the decision about whether the land would be rezoned wasn't final until the Bossier City Council had the opportunity to vote on the matter.
That vote came Tuesday with five 'yes' votes. Only one council member, Thomas Harvey, voted 'no' saying he's concerned the Walmart already on Airline Drive would shut down after the new one opens. And councilman Jeff Free abstained citing "financial reasons."
"We've been doing this song and dance since last September," said North Bossier resident Kyle Sawyer.
For Sawyer and other neighbors, it's been a year long struggle, fighting against a Super Walmart set to be built near their neighborhoods.
"Walmart coming is not going to bring healthy economic development. There is already a Walmart three miles down the road or less," said North Bossier resident Howard Davis.
But the council voted to essentially welcome Walmart in, even after several meetings where neighbors packed both MPC and city council meetings, opposing the big box store.
"I'm not surprised at all, there seems to be a real bias towards Walmart by city officials even though there is uniformity of opposition," said Davis.
Council members in support of the Walmart have said the store will bring jobs and sales tax dollars to the city.
"They've tweaked the buildings they tweaked the lights. They've done a lot of modifications that really make it user friendly," said City Attorney Jimmy Hall during the council meeting.
Hall explained Walmart has made compromises to address the neighbor's concerns.
Through a public records request to the MPC, KSLA News 12 obtained an email dated June 7, 2016 that detailed the changes Walmart has made to the project to "accommodate MPC staff and community concerns":
- A revised architectural layout from the prototypical gray appearances to a more natural tan color scheme.
- A decorative design for the pylon sign.
- Less split face block on the architecture with more EIFS and other allowed materials.
- A front curved architectural entrance and bagged goods area.
- A store that will not operate 24-hr/day.
- An elevated earthen berm planted atop with evergreens and shrubbery at the rear of the site for additional screening of delivery area.
- (It was announced at the council meeting Tuesday, that Walmart now plans to build an 8 foot wall instead of the berm at the rear of the building)
- Additional landscaping over what is required by code that will provide surplus screening around the perimeter of the store from adjacent public streets.
- The necessary measures to prohibit large delivery traffic from exiting the site onto Wemple Road (signage and reducing the exiting radii).
- $200,000 to assist with any future improvements at the intersection of Old Brownlee Rd. and Wemple Road.
- Assistance in creating a school zone at Providence Classical Academy (not to exceed $10,000).
- Benches for the bike path along Wemple Road.
Still, even with the changes, some residents are still not convinced. "It's not for the good for North Bossier or Bossier City," said Davis.
It is unclear when Walmart will begin construction on the super center.