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February 04. 2014 9:10PM

Walmart to give city $101K to restore trail system, pave street

MANCHESTER — Walmart is paying the city $101,000 to complete the restoration of the South Manchester Trail System and to repave a street near the site of its proposed Supercenter off South Willow Street.

The city Planning Board made funding the improvements a condition of its approval of the mega-store.

The corporation will pay $81,000 to complete the south Manchester trail, which runs parallel to South Willow behind the big-box stores on the south side of the street.

Walmart's contribution will allow the city to seek a matching grant from the state, which will enable the extension of the trail from Gold Street to Goffs Falls Road, according to Kevin Sheppard, the public works and highway director.

Sheppard spoke about the plan before the aldermen's Committee on Community Improvement Monday.

Walmart will pay another $20,000 for the resurfacing of John E. Devine Drive, which borders the site to the north.

The committee approved the creation of two separate Capital Improvement Program accounts for the projects, which will be administered by the Highway Department.

At Monday's meeting, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long raised concerns about the appearance of the payments from Walmart.

"It's like a developer dropping $80,000 on the table and saying if we get approved, you'll get the dollars," he said.

But Planning Director Leon LaFreniere said that another large store on the street had helped fund the trail.

"There is somewhat of a precedent for this," he said. "Shaws also made a contribution to the trail system because the trail system adjoins the property."

Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy, who is a member of the Planning Board, said the funding reflected the input of residents.

"This is one of the things residents in the area brought up," he said. "All these things offered were responses to the concerns of the residents of the area."

It's not unusual for developers to make mitigation payments in the case of projects that might have an adverse impact on local residents.

The Walmart Supercenter was first proposed in 2009, and it prompted concerns from residents that it would lead to a surge in traffic.

The project has received its building permits, although Walmart has not indicated when it will start work on the store, according to LaFreniere.


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