Wal-Mart will be on the Zionsville Plan Commission agenda again this month, this time for development plan approval for its amended proposal for a store on U.S. 421 between 106th Street and Bennett Parkway.

The chain filed the amended plan in December, which places the store in an area already zoned B-2. The previous filing had a portion of the store on a parcel that would need to be rezoned.

"(The new plan) shifts our supercenter over in to the zoned portion of property so we don't require the rezone anymore. That whole new amended plan is what will be before the plan commission in January," said Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris.

The rezone does throw a wrench in the plans for an integrated retail center planned by Heritage RDG, LLC. The developer said in December it plans to re-work its layout and return to the plan commission in the future with a revised developmental plan.

Wal-Mart is still interested in building there, even if it won't be as the anchor of that retail center.

"Certainly any time you have add complementary businesses around it adds to the economic vitality in that area," he said. "I think it would have been ideal to have the synergy of the different unique type of retail and multi-use development that would have gone in there."

Morris said stand-alone Wal-Marts are not uncommon.

"There's times where we have a standalone store and there are not other development with it, although there might be some across the road or in the immediate area .. and there are other times we're part of a shopping center or group of stores," he said.

Kent Esra, who is heading up the Zionsville Merchants Association opposition to the Wal-Mart plans, said the merchants will still try to fight the big box retailer's proposed plans.

"As far as the merchants association is (concerned), we're staying the course. We won a very, very small little battle in the rezoning issue that was turned down by the Town Council. The war is still on so to speak, and we're going to stay in it until the very end. We hope to be able to completely keep Wal-Mart or any big box retailer out," he said.

The ZMA petition against big box development is up to about 3,500 signatures, he said.

"People come in all the time to the restaurant and ask if they can sign the petition. I have people come in just to sign the petition," he said.

Esra said the ZMA is encouraging merchants to attend the upcoming plan commission meeting to show opposition to Wal-Mart's plans.

"Every time there is an issue that involves Wal-Mart in front of the plan commission we are going to have as many merchants there as we can ... by and large that has had some influence on them by their own admission," he said.

This time, Wal-Mart's appearance before the plan commission will be for plan approval, something that is set out by ordinance. If Wal-Mart meets the requirements laid out in the ordinance, the project will have to be approved.

"This will be a much more straightforward application than the previous one because there are no variances," Morris said.

He said Wal-Mart has been working with the town's planning office to make sure it meets the requirements set out in the ordinance.

"Having had the luxury of going through that (process) at least once already now with the amended plan I think we have a better understanding what the interpretation of the codes are and what is expected," Morris said.

Esra said merchants understand that Wal-Mart's plans might pass through the plan commission.

"It could be if the plan commission approves the new submission that there's going to be a Wal-Mart there. The merchants are well aware of that. We continue to hope we can come to some other resolution with the town and hopefully defeat it, but right now the odds are against it. But by no means are we giving up," he said.

The ongoing remonstrance is a drain on the ZMA budget, but Esra said merchants are committed to funding it.

"We've had businesses from outside the merchants association give us money for our legal battle, and we continue to try to solicit other businesses. We hope coming up in January we'll probably start a new drive to collect money for our legal fund so we can continue this battle," he said.

"We're going to fight it to the best of our ability as far as that is concerned. The worst thing you could do is to give up because we don't have enough money."

Wal-Mart will be on the agenda at the 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 Zionsville Plan Commission meeting at Zionsville Town Hall, 1100 W. Oak St.


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