The project manager for the proposed Wal-Mart store in Kenai stopped short Wednesday night of announcing dates for construction to begin or for the store to be open for business, but he did tell elected officials the project has not stalled.
Tom Adams, a representative for Lounsbury and Associates Inc. of Wasilla, the engineering firm developing the Wal-Mart project, told the Kenai City Council the company has completed its traffic study with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, obtained a wetlands permit from the federal government, obtained approval for a preliminary plat with the Kenai Peninsula Borough and submitted a building permit application to the city.
"In the past two years, we haven't been dormant," Adams said.
A little over two years ago, Wal-Mart announced plans to build a super center behind the Kenai Chrysler Center on the Kenai Spur Highway. Revised plans now indicate a store of 210,799 square feet.
City Manager Rick Koch said the sale of 38 acres of city property to Wal-Mart is scheduled to close May 6. Initially, Wal-Mart had applied to lease the property from the city.
Wal-Mart will be developing 31 of the 38 acres, according to Adams, who said the remainder would make up the four out lots to be developed by other commercial interests.
Other plans call for a traffic-light intersection where Wal-Mart's entrance driveway meets the Spur Highway roughly where the existing dirt road leads past the dust bowl ball diamond. The "T" intersection at Marathon Road would become limited access, allowing right turns only.
The actual building would be built using a metal-panel wall system, Adams said. Merchandise receiving docks will be on the east side of the building.
The east side is tree screened for neighboring residences, which are "a couple hundred feet away," he said.
"Construction documents have been presented to the city for permitting," Adams said, which he expects to have back within 30 days. The project would likely go out to bid sometime in April. The company could possibly let a contract in June.
Councilman Bob Molloy questioned Adams about an earlier promise the council made to residents that a public hearing would be conducted on Wal-Mart's site plan.
Councilman Mike Boyle said, "Wal-Mart brings something aesthetic to our town. If we have something more pleasing ... we will have more people in favor (of Wal-Mart coming to Kenai)."
City Attorney Cary Graves, however, said the public hearing motion made by the council about two years ago was part of Wal-Mart's lease application.
"That application has lapsed," Graves said, adding the public hearing was not made a condition in a sale contract.
Such a requirement would be arbitrarily directed against only one business, Graves said.
"Your landscaping plan meets or exceeds our requirements," Councilman Rick Ross said to Adams.
Site plans for Wal-Mart, as well as for the planned Lowe's Home Improvement Center, are available to the public in Kenai City Hall.
During Wednesday's meeting, the council also heard from Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, who pitched the idea of building a bird-viewing platform on city land near the Kenai boat launch.
At the concurrence of the council, Mayor Pat Porter encouraged Ruffner to work with city administration to see the project through.
The council also approved an ordinance adopting international building codes. Koch had said earlier, "There are no big things (in the new international codes) that change the way we build things."
The council postponed action on an ordinance regulating pawn shops until the first council meeting in March. Soldotna pawnbroker Norm Blakeley, who had testified previously about the proposed rules, told Councilwoman Linda Swarner he had more suggestions, but had not had enough time to prepare them for presentation.
In her mayor's report, Porter told the council Love In the Name of Christ is considering placing a homeless shelter in Kenai. Attempts to site its Love INC Family Hope transitional living center in Soldotna a year ago failed.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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