Fight Big Box



The February 6, 2013 article on Wal-Mart’s tax revenue to the Town of Zionsville is unfortunately based on an inaccurate report given to the writer in conjunction with inaccurate reporting on the report. The TIF will not receive the amount of money Wal-Mart is misrepresenting and the Town will not receive nearly the amount of tax money from the employees. There is no magic “$19.5 million in direct and indirect tax revenue to Zionsville” this statement is simply wrong and misleading to the trusting people of Zionsville. According to the report the article cites, the $19.5 million is actually the estimated “economic impact”, not tax revenue. The result of this economic impact according to the report is the $971,523 in total revenues (see page A12 of the Times) of which they state $677,000 will go to the TIF (not the Town). This number is also overstated as it assumes 80% of the people working at the Wal-Mart making $12.32 an hour will build and live in Zionsville (not possible). In addition it also does not account for the lost employment and tax revenue from the loss of 1.5 big box stores and “large decline in small retail establishments” as noted by 3 Ball State professors. If you want a copy of the actual report please e-mail

Please be sure to:

  1. Email the members of the Town Council, The Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Redevelopment Commission via Director of Town Planning, Wayne Delong, at to let them know your displeasure in even considering a change to the Big Box Ordinance. Walmart is asking for nearly a 100,000 square foot variance!
    Walmart filed an AMENDED petition with the board of zoning appeals and now will be requesting two variances:
    1. The original petition - to erect a building much larger than the maximum building size allowed under our current zoning ordinance for an integrated center; and
    2. To increase the size allowed under the current ordinance for the occupancy of a single entity in an integrated center from 60,000 square feet to the size they want to build, i.e. 156,000+ square feet.


Concerned citizens of Carmel and Zionsville who want to keep the transitional space north of 106th Street intact as past City and Town Planners intended. 

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A petition for a proposed development plan for Walmart is currently before the Zionsville Plan Commission (ZPC) .  They have also requested a variance from the Zionsville ordinance limiting the size of retail stores within the town borders. Their request is for a store that would be 156,000 square feet - 260% larger than what is allowed.
The ordinance (known as the “Big Box Ordinance”) states that commercial entities are limited to 60,000 square feet of retail space per single user. This was enacted in April, 2006 by a unanimous vote of the Plan Commission. The ordinance states:
Maximum Gross Floor Area - No Single use, whether free-standing or contained in an Integrated Center, shall exceed sixty thousand (60,000) square feet of Gross Floor Area. No Integrated Center shall exceed one hundred twenty-five thousand (125,000) square feet of total Gross Floor area. 1
Because the proposed Walmart would contain multiple stores (a Subway, for instance) it is considered an Integrated Center. However, the restriction of 60,000 square feet per single use still applies.
Before the petition can be reviewed by the ZPC, the developer’s request for the variance will be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on February 12, 2013.
We believe that while controlled development is a desired and welcome thing in this community, there was and is still very good reason to remain true to the 2006 Ordinance capping store size.
Our issues of concern include: 1) traffic congestion that hampers commutes on all routes in and out of Zionsville, 2) crime and effects on property values, 3) detrimental effects on established businesses, especially independent small retail establishments on which this community prides itself, and 4) the misinformation and misperception that this development will provide a tax benefit to the schools.

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Everyone stands to be impacted by the increased automobile traffic as well as the increased truck traffic to service such a large store. The average Walmart receives deliveries from 5-7 trucks per day.2 Proposals for other comparable Walmart locations that are smaller, i.e.150,000 sf, are even projected to receive up to 19 large truck deliveries per day.3 They also expect 3,088 new car trips per day from persons who wouldn’t otherwise be driving past the property.4 Not only will ability to get in and out of nearby neighborhoods be affected, but the concentrated traffic congestion that would result from a 24-hour store will make traveling this portion of the Michigan Avenue corridor for everyone extremely difficult and time-consuming.
When Michigan Road becomes so congested that commutes are adversely impacted, the other north-south routes are affected including Ford, Zionsville and Shelbourn Roads. This also means that east/west routes - 334 and 106th Streets - will have to deal with greatly increased traffic as drivers seek to find easier routes.
The Walmart representatives have proposed a stoplight directly in front of the Walmart parcel - but it has not been approved. This will affect the commutes of all travelers heading to 334 or Austin Oaks, Brittany Chase, Clarkston, Coventry Ridge, Fox Run, The Westons, The Willows, and Woodhaven, not to mention the Town Homes, Senior Living, and all other residences north of the property.
The added traffic will greatly stress the infrastructure currently available.
There are many retailers that automatically follow the building of a Walmart - a trip down 86th street reminds us of this— which then further creates an increase in traffic. Setting the precedent of allowing this variance could easily open a Pandora’s Box of other big box retailers looking to develop in Zionsville.  For example, there are two parcels north of 116th Street on Michigan Road that could accommodate the same size (Big Box) store that Walmart is seeking to build. 
Currently there is a transition between the shops along Michigan Road and the nearby residential areas. Adding sizeable retail to Michigan Road reduces and will potentially remove that transition.

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The increased traffic, noise, and lighting needed to sustain any “big box” retailer in this location will greatly impact the businesses and development in adjoining properties. We have all watched the new apartments being built off of Bennett Parkway. There is great concern that the congestion, sound, truck traffic and lights of a Walmart store next door will very negatively impact this new development and render many units unrentable. Forty-nine of their units are in the buildings directly adjacent to the Walmart property and half of those units will overlook the new Walmart and be directly next to the road down which all of the delivery trucks will travel. There is concern that the devaluation of these units will make the apartments less desirable and ultimately will negatively impact the home values of the Westons and Timber Ridge.
A 2006 study titled “Crime and Walmart - ‘Is Walmart Safe?’”5 is a compilation of 148,000 calls to police from 551 Walmart stores located throughout the country. Police incident reports from 2004 were collected and then analyzed by the authors. They found that each store had an average of 269 incidents requiring police assistance per year, and that nationally, Walmart stores cost local taxpayers an estimated $77 million in increased policing costs in 2004.
The study also looked at the 32 Walmart stores with the greatest incidents of calls and compared those with calls from nearby Target stores. Essentially the calls from the Walmart stores were 400% higher than those from Target.
Included in the study is a sampling of statements from police or public officials from across the country on the impact of a Walmart on their community.

In Zionsville, the vast majority of tax revenue from Walmart will not go to government services for the next 17 years.* Because Walmart will not be contributing to the funds with which to hire additional police, our town will be expected to combat any increase in crime with our current resources.

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A director and two professors from Ball State issued a report on November 5th, 2012. It was entitled “Mom-and-pops or Big Box Stores: Some Evidence of Walmart Impact on Retail Trade.”6 They conclude that “mom-and-pop establishments are not affected by the presence of a Walmart” although earlier in the report they “observe(d) a large decline in small retail establishments almost immediately following a Walmart entrance, and for a year afterward...” The authors have personally clarified that during their study the mom- and-pops had largely vanished prior to Walmart entering so there were few left to observe.
Walmart does have an impact on other retailers in the area. This Ball State study shows that an average of 1.5 big box stores around a new Walmart are shut down. The local Walmart representatives have stated publicly that Marsh is their competition, in particular the one directly across the street from their proposed location in Zionsville.

A Business News Daily article7 reports that redistribution in sales is estimated at $25 million annually - so people are not spending more money, they are just spending it at Walmart instead. This means that $660,000 in wages is lost annually ($14 million over 20 years) as employees in competing stores lose their jobs due to demand or store closings. The loss is also a result of Walmart employees being paid less than those in small, local stores or established retailers.
One caveat to this research - it applies only in areas where consumer demand is already being met. In underserved areas where there is a need for additional retail establishments, and demand is not being met, Walmart is beneficial.

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Most people relate the tax benefit of Walmart to have an immediate positive impact on the schools. Instead, the impact is projected to be much smaller than assumed.
The proposed location is in a TIF* area so all of the money from real estate taxes will go into redevelopment. The total amount of property tax that will go into the TIF is $677,000 annually. Walmart projects in their economic report 8 that about $250,000 in indirect property taxes will go to Boone County, the Library, Zionsville and the schools. The authors of this report were contacted to clarify their projections for the $250,000, which (they say) is based on 80% of the Walmart workers building and improving homes in Zionsville. The average wage of a Walmart employee according to their representatives is $12.32 per hour; however, according to a study published by Bloomberg, the average wage of a Walmart associate is $8.81 per hour.  The higher average includes the wages of store managers. Even at $12.32 per hour, it seems unlikely that many workers could afford to build or improve homes in Carmel or Zionsville.  Revenue projections based on unrealistic assumptions are misleading.
Of note is a study titled “Shifting the Burden for Vital Public Services: Walmart’s Tax Avoidance Schemes” from February, 2011.9 Its data shows that Walmart frequently asks for subsidies from towns in which it is building, most commonly when there is a TIF* involved. The research also shows that Walmart is notorious for routinely “try(ing) to belittle the value of its own facilities” in order to challenge the assessments at which it should be taxed, resulting in lower tax payments for the retailer at the expense of the local governments.

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We urge the decision-makers in Zionsville to honor the ordinances put in place just a few years ago, and to not open a Pandora’s Box of precedent by allowing Walmart to receive a variance.
It is this author’s hope that other neighborhoods and individuals who will be inspired to contact the individuals and board members who will decide this issue and make your voices heard. Any professionals with knowledge in the questions  before the Board of Zoning Appeals (property values, health and safety, etc.), please contact us at  If your development or an individual can help with the financial resources necessary to halt this development, it is greatly welcomed.  Please email us at

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1 Town of Zionsville Zoning Ordinance
2 “Sonora Walmart Expansion Project: Draft Environmental Impact Report,” prepared for the City of Sonora Department of Community Development by Michael Brandman Associates, December, 17 2009.
3 Milpitas Walmart Expansion Project, Draft Environmental Impact Report, November 5, 2009 (4.8-32)
4 Traffic Impact Study, Walmart Supercenter, U.S. 421 and Weston Pointe Drive, Zionsville Indiana; prepared for Weihe Engineers, October 2012. pg 14 table 5
What It Really Costs When Walmart Comes to Town
8 Economic and Revenue Impacts of Walmart on the Town of Zionsville, prepared by Applied Economics for Katz, Sapper & Miller. October 2012