Developer to pay for Wal-Mart impact study

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(Host) The developer of a proposed Wal-Mart store in St. Albans town says his company will pay for an independent review of traffic and economic studies. The town’s Development Review Board asked for the additional studies last week. The board said it needed more information before it could decide whether the project should be built.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Developer Jeff Davis wants to build a 160,000-square foot Wal-Mart store outside of St. Albans. The project is now before the town’s Development Review Board.

Last week, the board decided not to give Davis the go-ahead for the project. Instead, it asked him to pay for an independent review of studies that look at traffic and economic impact issues. Davis says he’s prepared to pay for the additional review.

(Davis) “We think our studies are accurate and thorough but if the town decides, as they apparently have, that they want a third party to review it, then that’s fine. We’re all for it and if we can all learn from it, we will.”

(Dillon) The Vermont Natural Resources Council, a statewide environmental group, has raised concerns about the Wal-Mart proposal. VNRC Attorney Jon Groveman said it’s clear that the Development Review Board has questions as well.

(Groveman) “What is the impact of the project going to be on the character of the area, on the viability of other businesses in St. Albans City and town and the surrounding area? What are the traffic impacts going to be of a project as enormous as this and of out scale with other commercial projects in the area? And they signaled that they do not have confidence in the applicant’s evidence.”

(Dillon) Davis, the project developer, says his studies show that overall Wal-mart will benefit Franklin County by keeping shoppers nearby. VNRC and other opponents challenge that claim. The St. Albans Town Development Review Board will hold its next hearing on the Wal-Mart project on February 10.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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