Future Wal-Mart Traffic Concerns Continue in Hazel Green, Threaten to Drive Residents Out

HAZEL GREEN, Ala. (WHNT) - Conflicting descriptions ranging from “gold mine” to “death trap” showed residents feelings toward a proposed Walmart at Charity Lane and U.S. 231/431 at a public meeting earlier this year.

The residents repeatedly argued that Walmart and Madison County haven’t done their homework if they think a supercenter can just locate there without substantial improvements to Charity Lane.

Now, with construction looming, some residents say they’d rather pick up and move rather than live across the street from a Walmart Supercenter.

We’re not going to be able to get in and out of our driveway like we’re used to and this is where I grew up so I don’t want to move and leave it all behind,” says soon-to-be Hazel Green High School junior Shay Seals.

The Seal family have lived near the intersection of Charity Lane and U.S. 231/431 for a little more than a year but say they’ve seen their share of bad wrecks near their home.

“It’s been more than a couple,” Seals says.

The Seals family is even considering drastic measures to avoid new neighbors in Walmart:

“Moving,” Seal says sadly, “because once it goes up it’s just going to make things worse, so we’re talking about moving.”  It’s an idea the high school student says many others close by are entertaining as well.

“Most of our neighbors are talking about moving, too because they don’t want to deal with it either.”

Griner’s Foodland is also literally feet from the future Walmart sight. Though managers declined to comment on camera – needless to say owners are none too pleased with the prospect of a retail juggernaut neighbor.

Walmart intends to build a 151,000-square-foot store on 21 acres. As per instructed by the Alabama Department of Transportation the site plan only shows one entry/exit on the highway. The plans show three access points on Charity Lane, one of which is intended for delivery trucks. The development also has four outparcels for restaurants and other retail businesses. Construction is scheduled to be complete in November.

The next closest Walmart is 16 miles in either direction, north and south. Residents said it will be a popular store because it’s on the commute for people coming from Fayetteville, Tenn., to Huntsville for work, as well as the fact that sales taxes will be 4 to 5 percent cheaper than the stores in municipalities.

Residents told the engineers that Charity Lane can’t handle the extra measure of shopping traffic and without better road improvements, it will increase the frequency of wrecks and fatalities all too common on Charity.

To deal with the extra traffic, engineers with Kimley-Horn and Associates, which regularly designs Walmart stores, plan to add a third lane on the south side of Charity. It specifically would be meant to help eastbound vehicles leaving the shopping center, intending to turn right on U.S. 231/431.

Plans also call for using an existing median cut on the highway to allow northbound vehicles on U.S. 231/431 to turn left into the shopping center. It would be enhanced with a northbound left-turn lane but not a traffic light, as instructed by ALDOT.

Glen Wilkins, Walmart senior manager of public affairs and government relations, said Walmart would have preferred two access points on the highway, and they didn’t opt for a cheaper method as some residents accused.

“We want it to be safe,” he said. “It has to be easily accessible or we don’t have shoppers.”

The store on the southwest corner of U.S. 431/231 and Charity Lane will employ about 300 workers. The store is set to open next spring.

wm marketWal-Mart will also start construction in June on a new 42,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market on the southwest corner of Wall Triana Highway and Pine Grove, which is just outside Madison. The company will hire 95 employees for the new store.

“Our stores will help provide our customers in the community with both convenient and affordable shopping options, and good job and career opportunities,” said Amanda Henneberg, a Walmart spokeswoman. “We look forward to our stores being a part of the solution for residents in Madison County.”

There are currently more than 300 Neighborhood Market locations across the U.S., including Decatur and Florence. Officials recently broke ground on a new Neighborhood Market at Oakwood Avenue and Jordan Lane.

The Neighborhood Market stores, which are typically less than a third of the size of a regular Supercenter, offer customers a full line of groceries, produce, meat, dairy, pharmacy and general merchandise items. The new location in Madison, which is expected to be complete early next year, will have an outdoor fueling station.

Work is also underway on the new Wal-Mart Supercenter at Mason Plaza on South Parkway. Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling said officials will begin planting a row of large, sound-absorbing holly bushes along L&N Drive as soon as Friday to give residents living near the new Wal-Mart some insulation from the noise.