The sale of 38 acres of city land to Wal-Mart was approved with a 5-2 vote of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday night.
Wal-Mart plans to build a combination grocery and retail store on the land behind the Kenai Chrysler Center, and has agreed to the asking price of $3,580,000 for the land.
In the proposed sale contract, Wal-Mart agrees to build a store of not less than 170,000 square-feet within four years of the close of the sale.
City Manager Rick Koch, on Wednesday, told the council Wal-Mart is finalizing an Army Corps of Engineers application for a wetlands permit. The building site includes 1 1/2 acres that have been designated as wetlands.
Koch said the application is awaiting signatures at Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Arkansas and will be filed at the Kenai office of the Army Corps.
He also said contractors for Wal-Mart are drilling core samples from “under the building footprint” on the site, and said the developer’s traffic study for the area around the proposed store site has been approved by the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Rick Baldwin, committee chairman of the Kenai Economic Development Strategy (KEDS), said the committee believes the city’s financial condition would benefit from Wal-Mart opening a store in Kenai.
“When Kmart closed, most of the shopping pattern shifted to our sister city,” Baldwin said, referring to Soldotna.
“Wal-Mart will bring shoppers back to Kenai. We encourage the council to proceed with the sale,” he said.
Expressing fear that 10 years in the future, Wal-Mart might find a Kenai store is not successful and choose to pull out, council member Bob Molloy voted against the real estate sale. Council member Mike Boyle followed suit.
“My preference would be a long-term lease or lease with an option to purchase, with a repurchase right at the back end,” Molloy said.
Council member Rick Ross said he perceived reverting to a lease, as Wal-Mart originally sought, would be a deal breaker.
“I think this is a good contract,” Ross said.
Council members Ross, Joe Moore, Linda Swarner and Barry Eldridge, and Mayor Pat Porter voted in favor of the sale.
In October 2006, Wal-Mart spokesperson Jennifer Holder said the company would like to see the store open in the first quarter of 2008.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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