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Proposed Walmart Supercenter Draws Debate In Lee's Summit

Across the Kansas City area, communities are debating the drawbacks and benefits of having the world's largest retailer as a neighbor: Walmart. In Lee’s Summit, a group of residents showed up at a recent city council meeting wearing red, to oppose the construction of a $25 million dollar Walmart Supercenter.

The proposal would bring a second Walmart to Lee's Summit, about five miles south of the existing store.  During the meeting, developers focused on the energy-efficient specifications of the new building. Council members asked questions about the potential traffic snarls that could arise once thousands of cars showed up on this mostly undeveloped tract of land by Highway 150 and Southwest Market Street. 

But residents had other concerns: whether Walmart would lead to "upscale development", the potential for crime, the effect on property values, and what to do with the already empty sites of former Walmart stores in other communities.

The city council ended up postponing a decision until they get more information about potential traffic patterns around the proposed Walmart.

Voices from the City Council Meeting:

“I am just asking you tonight that if this goes through, do not make the mistake that other city councils have made, by not ensuring that if a Walmart were to close in Lee’s Summit…that we don’t have this same situation where a building sits empty and it’s only used in the case of a disaster with a tornado or whatever. Please make sure they take care of that building and it does not sit there and grow weeds or grow rats.”

“The Mormons own the land north of us…you can’t get any taxes from it, except farmland and I know what I’m paying for farmland. And it ain’t much for taxes. And, I hear that’s for the second coming, the land, and if God comes over here and sees there’s no Walmart, He probably won’t stay.”

“By this development, is South Lee’s Summit becoming safer and more secure? Is this allowing for high quality, upscale development? Or is this simply likely to be a more profitable for Walmart to locate there?

“Because Walmart generates a lot of calls for service—it’s the number one call generator for the police department—there is the natural inclination that there’s a lot of crime at Walmart. And when people think there’s a lot of crime at Walmart, you automatically think of serious crimes, assaults, and robberies. So by drilling down the numbers, drilling down into the incidents, you see that serious crime is less than one percent, in Lee’s Summit, half a percent, is serious crime. So I think the fear comes from the…black and white fact that the police are at Walmart a lot…the police are at Walmart a lot because Walmart security catches a lot of shoplifters.”

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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