The organized opposition from the Friends of the Village of Elmwood Park seems to have worked: Walmart has withdrawn its application for a Neighborhood Market in that village.
According to a statement sent via e-mail on Wednesday, the "unique circumstances" surrounding the old Kohl's site at Lathrop and Durand Avenues prompted the company's about-face.
"The very unique circumstances at the vacant Kohl's store in Elmwood Park and Racine have made that project infeasible from a cost and timing perspective, and, after much due diligence, we have decided to re-evaluate the market. Walmart is excited to seek other opportunities to improve the shopping options of our Racine area customers," the statement read.
Nick Haas, a member of the Friends group, said he was excited about the news and was "more than satisfied" that Walmart is looking to land a Neighborhood Market elsewhere.
"This threatened our way of life in our village, which is calm and peaceful because we're a close-knit community," he said. "When over 90 percent of residents oppose the plan, that's a pretty good indication that a company should move on. I am more than satisfied that Walmart is looking for opportunities elsewhere."
Village Clerk Veronica Rudychev said she got a call Tuesday from Walmart attorney Debbie Tomczyk about withdrawing the application and was expecting something in writing prior to the company's announcement. Still, Rudychev said Tomczyk hopes Walmart's change of plans will allow neighbors to come back together.
"Walmart recognized that village residents were organzed against changing the village's land use plan and told me they were going to formally withdraw their application," she said. "They also saw how divided the community was and hope neighbors can come back together now."
Trustee and Plan Commission member Brad Jaeck was surprised to learn the news Wednesday when Patch called him for comment.
"Oh, my goodness. This is very good news," he said. "This has really made my day. Thank you."
He agrees that tensions have been high these last few months while the Walmart application wound its way through the process and hopes residents will stay engaged.
"We usually only had one or two people attending our monthly meetings, but I hope this new interest continues and people will continue to attend and be part of the community like this," Jaeck added.
Walmart was looking to purchase the old Kohl's property as well as a three-acre parcel to the south for a 40,000 square foot Neighborhood Market grocery store. To build according to their plan, village trustees would have had to amend the village's 2035 comprehensive land use plan to rezone the residential lot for commercial use.
The Friends of Elmwood Park organized to , most recently submitting protest petitions that would have forced a three-quarters, or 5-2, vote for any rezoning. Village President Audrey Viau and Trustees David Voss and Linda Pelish face recall in September, in part for their support of the project.
Walmart is building a Neighborhood Market on Washington Avenue in Mount Pleasant. That store is expected to open late next year.