Construction yet to begin but residents still angry with city
Nearly six months on, progress on Bossier’s new Walmart Supercenter is yet to be seen, but the distrust and anger that fueled opposition to it is still present.
Although city officials heard from residents opposed to the store every stop of the way, dating back to when it was originally tabled in September 2015, the City of Bossier City Council approved the Bossier Metropolitan Commission’s favoring the rezoning of the land at Wemple Road and Airline Drive from Residential/Agriculture (R/A) to B-3 in September 2016.
Rosedale resident Lindsey Nickerson lives across the street from where the store would go. She attended council meetings and planning commission meetings when the issues was originally brought up in 2015.
She feels as though officials tabled the item until “people couldn’t take off work to attend.”
“As a resident and mom of a child at a school right around the corner, I felt they should have the residents’ interest in the back of their mind. And it didn’t feel that way,” Nickerson said.
“It made me feel like it was already a done deal, that our voices don’t matter. From there people were just hoping it wasn’t a 24-hour facility,” she added.
Residents have repeatedly cited concerns over traffic, crime, and a decrease in home values.
As a parent who drops off and picks up her child at Providence Classical Academy located on Old Brownlee Road, adjacent to where the store will go, she said traffic is a primary concern. She explained that the road is already backed up on a daily basis.
“Where the current store is (located is) a high traffic area and I feel like all that congestion will just be brought further north,” Nicerkson said.
In response to these concerns, Walmart has made several concessions. These include $200,000 to go towards the widening of Wemple Road, an 18-hour operation time instead of the usual 24-hour, a school zone for Providence Classical Academy on Wemple road, landscaping, alternative routes to direct truck traffic off Wemple Road, and a fence in the rear of the store facing residential developments.
But Nickerson is still uneasy over the plans, saying, “I think residents deserve to know how they’re going to enforce (the concessions), because nobody seems to know anything.”
Bossier City legal counsel said Walmart would be bound to make the proposed concessions or else the deal would be void.
“They would, of course, be bound to making those (concessions),” Bossier Public Information Officer Mark Natale previously told the Bossier Press-Tribune.
Last May, the city annexed the 99-acre plot in a measure to protect their sales tax collections. The proactive move was made out of concern that the existing store on Airline Drive, a mere three miles from the new site, could be shuttered. This would result in cuts being made to fire and police departments to counteract the lack of sales tax.
Walmart officials have maintained through the entire process that both stores will be in operation.
Nickerson said having another Walmart just three miles down the road makes no sense. She added that it leads to her having reservations about whether the original store will remain open once the new store begins operations.
“You can look at Kmart and the old Michael’s to see what happens when stores close or move,” she said. “As a resident of Rosedale, I think I can speak for my neighbors when I say I don’t think we would mind driving three miles versus having that facility right here.”
She said there are several “higher end” stores, or new and different businesses, that would have been a better fit for the area as opposed to “duplicating the same facility (that is) three miles away.”
Multiple calls made to the store’s architects, Duplantis Group, to confirm the concessions that were put in place would still be performed, as well as as a potential timeline for construction, were never returned.
When construction does begin, officials will first make $3.6 million worth of investments on the property. There is still no timeline yet for this to begin.
“I don’t think the planning committee used the foresight they should have. They didn’t think about the residents. It’s going to happen, we have to live with it,” said Nickerson.