In a 3 a.m. vote, Raytown gives green light to downtown Wal-Mart grocery store

After meeting for about seven and a half hours, the Raytown Board of Aldermen voted 6-4 early Wednesday to allow a change that paves the way for a Wal-Mart grocery store in its downtown.

The night of impassioned speaking ended around 3 a.m. About 40 spectators stuck it out to the bitter end.

More than 100 people had packed Raytown City Hall for the standing-room-only debate Tuesday night over whether the city should relax zoning in its central business district to accommodate the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

Speakers and aldermen opposed the store for a variety of reasons, citing the building’s size, the possible detrimental effect of Wal-Mart on other businesses and the loss of a large oak tree on the site. Alderman Janet Emerson, who voted against the proposal, said the size of the store was a primary concern.

“Wal-Mart has refused to downsize the building. Many people would be willing to have a Wal-Mart grocery store if it was not going to be 42,000 square feet,” she said. “I believe small businesses will be driven out of Raytown.”

Emerson, Josh Greene, Jason Greene and Jim Aziere voted against the amendment.

But those in favor said any development there would be a welcome boost to an area that has been stagnant for a decade.

“Basically our downtown is blighted,” said Alderman Joe Creamer. “When we see signs that say ‘Save Downtown,’ does that mean we’re supposed to save the blight?”

The grocery store would be built on a 4.5-acre spot at 6200 Blue Ridge Blvd. The corporation has agreed to buy three small properties on the site, plus about 3.4 acres of green space owned by the city.

But before the store can be built, Wal-Mart would have to return to the city for approval of final design plans.

The city bought its part of the plot in 2001, after First Baptist Church moved out. The church building was torn down in 2009, and the spot has been planted with grass while the city waited for someone else to buy it.

Raven Cooper, who owns the Expressions in Dance studio in nearby Raytown Plaza shopping center, said she welcomes Wal-Mart for the increased customer traffic it will bring.

“Having a park makes no business for me. We need to move to the next level,” she said. “What we’ve had hasn’t worked.”