Residents Express Safety Concerns About New Walmart

TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Safety issues topped concerns for residents who also say they're willing to welcome a Walmart Supercenter to their neighborhood. They spoke out at a public meeting Wednesday night.

About 100 people showed up at Highland Park High School to find out if developers would keep their safety in mind.

The top concerns about building the Walmart on 25th and California are noise, traffic and pedestrian safety.

Walmart developers are sure it'll bring convenience to that part of town.

"We are excited to provide shopper an additional shopping experience in the neighborhoods in which they live and work," Walmart Public Relations Manager Ryan Irsik said. "It'll create a better shopping atmosphere because it relieves some of the pressure on other stores."

Irsik, as well as engineer and land-use attorneys were present at the meeting to give answers.

Residents think it's a good economic improvement for East Topeka, some saying that part of town has been ignored for a long time. They also have a lot of concerns.

"We are proud to see Walmart invest in our community," president of the Highland Acres NIA Bob Schneider said.

The idea is that most of the store's employees will live around the area. Irsik said about 250 jobs will be created with the opening of the store, bringing the total number of Walmart/Sam's Club employees in Topeka to just over 1,000.

Many of the residents at the meeting expressed concerns with the high pedestrian traffic. A Highland Acres NIA survey concluded that out of 89 nearby households in the area, only ten have vehicles. Many people pointed out that the sidewalk on 25th isn't finished, forcing walkers to walk on the grass. A lot of the people travelling along that area are mothers with strollers or are in wheelchairs.

Other people are concerned about the students at Highland Park.

"The bus stops are there, you have tennis courts there, kids park there when they're playing tennis," said one parent. "You've got all kinds of different things that are going on right there by the high school."

Developers will construct dual entrances at California and on 25th. They are using the primary entrance at 25th. The unfinished sidewalk on 25th will be completed, as well as additional pedestrian-friendly walk areas around the building. They said that the school traffic doesn't coincide with when people do most of their shopping.

The street width will stay the same, four lanes with a turning lane on California, and two lanes on 25th. Residents expressed concerns with the street space not being wide enough, but developers said it will be adequate for delivery trucks.

"You're literally going to be in our backyard," said the president of another neighborhood association. "We would like a concrete fence on the east side of your property to alleviate the noise. The noise from the diesels, the unloading trucks all night long."

A 13-foot soil berm will run along the back of the building, where residential areas begin, to mute some of the noise. A fence will be at the top of the berm.

A storm drainage basin will be located in the back of the building for storm water, where it will then be treated.

Delivery trucks have a no-idle policy, meaning when they pull into the parking lot they must turn their engine off. Walmart says that supports their mission to be sustainable and green. Irsik mentioned that Walmart has self-containing trash receptacles within the building to dispose trash economically and to avoid a stench.

Irsik said they will be working with Topeka police to develop security measures and patrol. LED lighting, cameras and other security measures will be put in place.

It hasn't been determined if the store will be open 24 hours. It will have a pharmacy and a grocery section, which developers said will match the variety at the north Topeka Walmart.

The store is set to open fall 2014.


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