Cottage Grove Walmart project heads for final approvalCottage Grove planning commissioners on Monday recommended City Council approval of plans to build a Walmart Supercenter on the site of the Cottage View Drive-In movie theater.
Cottage Grove planning commissioners on Monday recommended City Council approval of plans to build a Walmart Supercenter on the site of the Cottage View Drive-In movie theater.
The council will consider the proposed 178,000 square-foot Walmart Supercenter at a meeting next week. Their approval represents the final hurdle in front of a proposed retail development that city officials say they believe will help spark retail growth in Cottage Grove’s East Ravine area near U.S. Highway 61 and County Highway 19.
It would, however, also mark the end of a 45-year run for the city’s iconic drive-in movie theater that has operated along East Point Douglas Road each summer since 1966. It is one of fewer than a handful of drive-in theaters still operating in Minnesota.
The commission last month tabled the retailer’s plans to give city staff and Walmart planning consultants more time to address a litany of concerns raised the July 23 Planning Commission meeting, among them worries about noise, the store’s visual impact on nearby homes and the effects of projected increased traffic on surrounding roadways.
Planning commissioners unanimously approved plans that city officials say better address those potential problems. The updated site plan for the proposed grocery, pharmacy and retail store bulks up a buffer with a higher earthen berm and more plantings to help shield neighboring homes from the development that would sit 245 feet from the closest residential structure. That distance, city officials said, is a larger cushion than most large retail buildings in the city.
More roadwork would also be completed initially as part of the updated Walmart plan.
Traffic projections estimate the store would generate an additional 8,000 vehicle trips per day on the surrounding roadways, a figure that worried some planning commissioners. In addition to widening a stretch of East Point Douglas Road and adding turn lanes at the intersection with busy Highway 19, the city now proposes to remove portions of a median at East Point Douglas and Jamaica avenues to allow for easier turns at that intersection that a traffic study completed by engineering consulting firm Bolton & Menk projects will also be impacted by higher traffic volume.
Signal re-timing and turn lane adjustments would also be completed in the first phase of road improvements. Further roadwork would follow more retail development around the proposed store.
Walmart’s plans were first brought forward in March and were delayed three times at the planning commission level while the company’s consultants and city staff studied various aspects of the proposal. The store would sit on roughly 23.6 acres of the drive-in theater site owned by Gerry Herringer and his Apache Chief Theater Co. on East Point Douglas Road, next to the VFW Red Barn.