Litchfield Council delays its decision on Wal-Mart-related annexation

LITCHFIELD -- The Litchfield City Council did not make a decision Tuesday on an annexation petition that includes land Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering for a Supercenter store.

LITCHFIELD -- The Litchfield City Council did not make a decision Tuesday on an annexation petition that includes land Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering for a Supercenter store.

About 50 people attended a public hearing about the annexation at the Litchfield Civic Arena. Two city residents spoke during the hearing, but one was cut off after he brought up Wal-Mart.

The council decided to continue the hearing until its March 6 meeting.

The Economic Development Authority and the petitioners haven't come to an agreement on plans for utilities and streets, Councilwoman Barb Altringer said.

Wal-Mart has a purchase agreement for about 20 acres of land owned by C. Alvin Johnson and David A. Johnson. The land is east of the city on U.S. Highway 12. Both have petitioned to have their land annexed into the city. Other landowners are also petitioning for annexation in that area, including Meeker County, which plans to build a public works building there with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.


Preliminary plans call for a store that's roughly 150,000 square feet, said Ron Dokken, a civil engineer hired by Wal-Mart, after the hearing.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter stores combine the discount store with a full grocery and sometimes include other services, such as a tire and lube shop, eye care center and one-hour photo processing.

If approved, it would be the third Wal-Mart Supercenter store to be built in the west central area. Wal-Mart is planning to build Supercenter stores in Willmar and Montevideo. There is already a Supercenter in Hutchinson, which is about 25 miles southeast of Litchfield.

During the hearing, John Carlson, a Litchfield sixth grader, starting talking about the research he had done on Wal-Mart in his social studies class, but was interrupted by Mayor Vern Madson who said the hearing was only about the land annexation.

Dick Brandt of Litchfield said as long as the development of the land doesn't increase city taxes it won't bother him. But he said if it will create a tax burden or use tax breaks like Job Opportunity Building Zones, the city should "take a look at it."

Councilwoman Connie Lies asked if the council was addressing only land coming into the city and if everything else was a separate issue.

Altringer said the city has to know how it will be able to service land coming into the city.

Committee recommends selling historic opera house


The city facility committee recommended to the council that it sell the former city hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city moved its offices out of the former city hall about four years ago because of mold and ventilation issues. A new city hall is expected to open next month near the old building.

The council has debated what to do with the old city hall, which was built as an opera house in 1900. It has been suggested that it be torn down, that is be sold to someone willing to restore it or that it be used for a community center.

In December, the city was awarded a $65,000 Minnesota Historical Society grant to help stabilize the building. The grant requires a match, and the council was reluctant to accept it.

The facilities committee, which is Lies, Madson and Councilman Gary Walz, met Feb. 9, and Walz and Lies agreed that the city should sell the building to a buyer willing to restore it.

Madson said he suggested letting the community vote on what to do with the building because in 1911 city residents had voted to buy the building from the township for $2,750.

The building is valued at $255,600, according to a 2004 valuation, Madson said. The bare land is valued at $37,000, which Lies suggested should be the starting price.

If the council approves the plan, the building would be advertised for bids and sold to the highest bidder.


The buyer would need to restore the building using national historic guidelines, Lies said. A period of five years for completing the restoration was also discussed, she said.

The council did not vote on the recommendation at Madson's request because Walz was absent.

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