Why Didn't The Walmart Planned For 58 And Hickory Valley Get Built? - And Response

Friday, March 15, 2019

I wanted to see if someone would check into a situation on Highway 58 N concerning the new Walmart Supercenter that was supposed to be built at Highway 58 and N. Hickory Valley Road. There have been rumors of one being built for a lot of years and about three years ago it was announced that they would build a Walmart Supercenter which would be 150,000 square feet.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper article said it usually takes about 10 to 12 months to build one. Needless to say, we were happy to hear this. We drive by there frequently and we watched in the next few weeks as they tore down some houses and business buildings that were on site and apparently started the initial clearing. Then they built a fence around the whole thing and the work stopped.

It has now been three years and we have watched and waited as it sat idle all this time. They recently put a “For Sale” sign up in front of it.

Rumors circulated through the years on why it was delayed. Some said they found Indian bones and some said they found some endangered bats. A friend of mine who seems to know a little about what is going on told me that the city of Chattanooga and the stormwater runoff bunch wanted the developer to spend an additional $300,000 on this property to comply with their standards. If that is the reason this project was cancelled, it is a crying shame.

This developer who builds for Walmart spent a lot of money to purchase this land, tear down those buildings, and put up that fence. Did the city ultimately cause a project like this to be cancelled because of a water runoff issue? 

Being a Harrison resident and a Highway 58 business property owner, I can tell you that this water runoff issue is expensive. My property at 5809 Highway 58 was taken into the city several years ago (against our will). All I benefited from it was my property taxes were doubled. We did get fire coverage and garbage service but the tax increase was much higher than I was paying for these services. The city tried to charge me for stormwater runoff and I protested their bill. They waived it on my property since the water that runs off my property ultimately goes in the Tennessee River and is not handled by the city. Some of the other businesses on Highway 58 weren’t so fortunate. I understand that Bayside Baptist Church was assessed a big fee.

Has our local government gotten to the place that we run potential new businesses off because of some of these environmental expenses. I want to take care of this planet as much as anybody, but not at the expense of entrepreneurs, business owners, and consumers. We have waited a long time for the Walmart in this area and I’m disappointed that we didn’t get it.

This county and city bent over backwards and jumped through a lot of hoops to get Volkswagen in here and I am glad they came. They gave VW land and tax breaks that amounted to millions. Our government seems to be willing to build bicycle lanes that few people use and walking tracks that relatively few people use, but they don’t appear to be very business friendly.

Walmart is the largest employer in the world. They have seven Supercenters in Hamilton County. Based on figures I got off the web, these Supercenters employ around 300 persons each and do around $1,000,000 a week. That is $7 million a month or $364 million a year. As far as the Walmart Neighborhood Markets go, I’d assume they do around half as much a week. If we guess that these have 100 employees each, we have five of these Neighborhood Markets in Hamilton County. If you figure $500,000 a week for these, that is $2.5 million a month or $130 million a year. These figures add up to around a half billion dollars a year in sales from Walmart in Hamilton County.  So, I’ll estimate that Walmart employs around 2,600 people in this county. (I understand that their starting pay is around $11 per hour.)

I was not able to get the current numbers for Volkswagen but their initial information when it was built said they would employ around 2,500 people. I know it is more than that now since they have added on another line. What bothers me is that Volkswagen has been given all these incentives to come here and Walmart is forced to cancel building this store because of some bureaucracy.

Maybe I’m wrong about why the project was cancelled, but I’d like to know the truth. Why in the world would we discourage this kind of growth? The folks at Walmart did not get where they are by being fools. If this property is not worth Walmart spending their money to build on, who do you think can afford to buy and develop it?

I’ve lived in the Highway 58 area for a lot of years. It has been slow to grow compared to areas like Hixson, East Brainerd, and Ooltewah. If you drive up Highway 58, you’ll see a lot of business property for sale and some have been for sale for years. When you get to Clark Road, you’ll see a new road across the street that was built for Volkswagen. They even put up traffic lights that have never been activated. This road has been there a long time now and is apparently not used. It strikes me as odd that VW can get a new road and a traffic light and Walmart can’t even be allowed to build here. I wonder how much stormwater runoff Volkswagen has to pay. They certainly have a lot of paved areas and roofs. Business people are not going to buy property and be forced to face all this expense before they can do business. This expense ultimately has to be passed on to the consumer.

This Walmart Supercenter would have been a big boost for our area.  I’m not politically active and I have no agenda nor an ax to grind. I just don’t understand this. If an explanation has ever been given as to why this project was cancelled, I have not heard it. 

Ronnie Nichols

* * * 

Mr. Nichols, 

I am glad that you have asked this question about the Walmart that many of us in the Highway 58 area were seriously looking forward to. I have only lived on 58 for about six years but to have a Walmart in that location would have been great!

I do not have the answer to your questions and in fact I have more questions to begin with. I was wondering if that property is actually large enough for a Supercenter footprint? In addition, I wondered how the store would be located so close to the high tension towers near that property and if they would have to be moved. 

I do see where putting up a large building and paving that property would cause a lot of additional water and sewage runoff. Another potential problem I wondered about was the increased traffic and traffic flow around the store. What would be the cost of addressing the items that I have listed?

I have heard the good, bad, and ugly about the Volkswagen deal, but have you considered the other businesses that sprang up around the plant to provide materials and services that Volkswagen needed? Concerning the road "built for Volkswagen", I believe that it would serve as a great connection to I-75?  I might be wrong, but isn't that road going to figure into a alternate entrance to the schools. (I also heard someone talking about one or more of those schools being rebuilt?) nearby and relieve some traffic problems related to the school zone on that section of 58.

Honestly, I'm shooting in the dark here. I would like to know more about the Walmart project and all the factors involved in the decision not to advance the construction of the store as announced. Can someone throw us a bone here?

Ted Ladd
Ooltewah



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