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Petition says residents near Janesville Walmart have seen six years of problems

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 1, 2011
— Amhurst Road residents say they’ve had enough.

About 25 residents recently delivered two petitions to the city filled with complaints that started surfacing when Walmart was built six years ago.


Problems include standing water, trash and mosquitoes, neighbors say.


“The neighbors feel the city has given the greenbelt to Walmart,” said Tom Arndt, 3523 Amhurst Road.


Before Walmart received its conditional-use permit, the city told residents a stormwater detention pond between the development and the subdivision would drain within 72 hours, Arndt said.


“Now, it’s been 72 months.”


Walmart just finished a new detention system costing $900,000.


But the fix created another problem, residents say. The company built a wide gravel road to stabilize the soil and provide access to the detention facility. Residents are angry the city didn’t meet with them first so they could have a say in the project.


Residents want the road removed.


They also want compensation from the city. Their homes are taxed higher because they are on a greenbelt, but the city has allowed its condition to deteriorate, Arndt said.


Some of the residents are the same people shocked in 2006 when trees and brush behind their homes were removed, opening views to the new commercial area. The trees were removed to build the faulty detention system.


Arndt said neighbors realize the greenbelt is owned by the city.


“Shouldn't the people who live right next door at least be able to have a say on what goes on next to their properties?” he asked. “We were not notified of any of the construction going on behind our homes.”


Arndt believes the Mercy Health System construction nearby is the only reason the city finally forced Walmart to fix the detention pond. The Mercy property cannot drain into the area until the problems are solved.


Gale Price of the city community development department said he had repeatedly tried to get Walmart to fix the drainage facility.


Stormwater passes from the Walmart property into a pit created when gravel and soil were mined for Interstate construction years ago. All the water in the area drains there, including water from surrounding subdivisions.


Walmart six years ago did not build its infiltration galleries far enough south, Price said.


“The plans did not give us all the topography clear down to the southern end of the pit, so we had no way to make that determination that it was in the wrong spot when it got built,” Price said.


“I had been chasing Walmart for three years to get them to fix the facility,” Price said. “This spring, when I withheld the building permit for them to remodel their store, that got their attention.”


A bond of about $50,000 held by the city to cover future problems expired long ago.


Engineers hired by Walmart used gravel to stabilize the exposed soil and create a maintenance road, Price said. The city doubts prairie plants could grow through the gravel.


Price said he did not hold a neighborhood meeting to show residents construction plans because he thought he was doing what they wanted—fixing the drainage problem.


“They’ve got a legitimate gripe,” Price said. “I think we’re going to end up with a (stormwater) facility that works. They feel that the price was too high.


“We’re working with another consultant to determine what can be done to assure that the prairie is going to grow up,” Price said.


Conditional-use plans require Mercy to plant trees to provide additional screening on the hillside where vegetation was removed in 2006.


City Manager Eric Levitt met with neighbors last month. He said the city has two goals: to correct the drainage issue and create a prairie greenbelt with a small maintenance road.


“My position is, it will occur,” Levitt said.



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