Friday, December 9th, 2016

Why does there have to be a Walgreens everywhere?

5

Town can shut down Walgreens expansion tonight – before it’s too late

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

Everywhere you are, there’s a Walgreens near you. The drug store chain is approaching McDonald’s-level saturation, and even passing it in some areas.

Who knew we had such a hard time finding a pharmacy for our drug habits?

Within five minutes of my home, I have a choice of three different Walgreens. That there are not more of them is probably an oversight on Walgreens’ part, one they will soon correct. After all, not even zoning or existing residential properties can stop them.

Tonight, the town of Waukesha is considering changing their Smart Growth Plan to accommodate another Walgreens in the world. This time it would be on the southwest corner of Sunset Avenue and Genesee Avenue. For those of you scratching your heads on how it is going to fit on that corner, they will be knocking down five homes in the subdivision to clear the way.

The plan change approval by the town would be the first step in the process, but it’s an important step. After the town grants its approval, the county would have to approve it. Then a zoning change would have to occur, and then approval of the Walgreens itself.

However, if the first domino is not knocked over, the rest will never fall and the neighborhood will be spared. According to local writer Jim Rowen, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said there were two steps in every transportation plan: “too soon to know” and “too late to do anything about it.” It’s a great rule for almost any development project.

This project’s backers are trying to move it to the “too late” stage, which would explain why a Walgreens representative was out door to door putting literature on residents’ doors.

Normally I don’t question the business reasoning of private companies, but the ridiculous ubiquitousness of the Walgreens chain has reached the point where they have apparently run out of commercial space to develop. Soon they may be the next-door neighbor you never wanted.

The manager of the proposed Walgreens would hardly be lonely. There are five Walgreens in the City of Waukesha already. Within three miles of the proposed location, there are three other Walgreens stores.

Just up the street on Sunset at Tenny Avenue is another Walgreens. If one of the stores runs out of cheap milk and copies of The Freeman (my usual purchase), customers will be able to walk to the next store.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost wrote. The new Walgreens will have a lovely 8-foot fence to decorate the backyards of its neighbors. And because it will be open all night, there will be plenty of people coming to the Walgreens to be neighborly to the people that live close by.

I can’t imagine any business survey that came back with, “We need another Walgreens.” However, Dan Bucholz on the town plan commission said Walgreens did the marketing research and determined that this stretch of homes would be a good location.

If they are trying to freeze out the competition, Walgreens is too late. CVS/pharmacy, Target, the Pick ’n Save at the Shoppes at Fox River, and soon the Super Walmart will be near the new location.

Making it worse for the neighborhood, the plan also calls for additional commercial space as well. What it would be is completely open.

There would be some advantage to the town of Waukesha if a Walgreens did move in. The Walgreens would mean increased tax revenue, at least until the City of Waukesha moved in and annexed the property.

But even if the proposed Walgreens remained part of the town long enough to make it financially worthwhile, it could never make up for the corresponding loss in the quality of life for the nearby residents. It is entirely possible that the town board may take no action tonight, opting instead to push the decision to the November meeting.

One board member, Steve Smart, confirmed again Tuesday night because of conflicts of interest he will refrain from voting on the proposal involving Walgreens. The other two board members could do the community a favor and put a stop to the proposed Walgreens right now.

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