It was more than two years ago that a debate raged in the small precincts of Gardnerville about the large effects a giant retailer like Walmart would have on the community.
Last week, Douglas County finally issued a building permit for the 152,373-square-foot superstore that will be constructed behind Les Schwab Tires in south Gardnerville.
According to the permit issued by Douglas County Community Development, the estimated value of the building, to be located at 1511 Grant Ave., is $4.3 million.
On Saturday, workers were busy clearing large cottonwoods from the site.
"They have a lot of grading to do first," said county planner Dirk Goering. "They're putting in Grant, which will go from Muller Parkway to Highway 395, and access roads behind Les Schwab. There will be a big parking lot, so mass grading."
Developers are grading other commercial pads in the vicinity, contingent on proper dust control, anticipating that future development will be clustered around the anchor store, Goering said.
Construction of the actual store has taken longer than expected since conceptual plans were first approved at the end of 2009. Walmart has been working with the Town of Gardnerville, the Gardnerville Water Co., and East Fork F ire & Paramedic Districts on a number of site issues, Goering said.
The store was originally scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2012. The final development plan included 11 commercial buildings clustered on the 24-acre site, acting as a buffer between Walmart and Highway 395.
The project was controversial from the beginning. During the design review process, residents and business owners argued that the superstore would diminish the character of Gardnerville and hurt local businesses. There were protests in front of town hall, letters to the editor. A split vote at the Gardnerville Town Board cast doubt on the project.
But in December 2009, Douglas County planning officials approved the Walmart design administratively, citing proper zoning and compliance with code. At the time, the county stipulated 33 conditions of approval, ranging from street improvements to landscaping requirements.
"We're hearing what everyone else is hearing, that the new Walmart is gearing towards a November opening," Bill Chernock, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Monday. "For chamber members and for small businesses in the Valley, there are some things that can be done. At this point, we're not the first small community to see a Walmart arrive. It's not even our first time through this process.
"The things the smaller businesses need to do are pretty clear. It becomes about higher levels of customer service. It means providing merchandise that Walmart doesn't provide, and it means communicating with your customers regularly."
Although competing with the largest retailer in the world will certainly be challenging, Chernock said small businesses may see some benefits.
"The bit of upside to their arrival is that they obviously believe by locating at the south end of the Valley they're going to pull in new customers," Chernock said. "That means new people arriving, whether from Hawthorne or Mammoth, that small businesses can capture as new customers."
On Tuesday, County Building Official Dave Lundergreen said it took Walmart nine months to build the store off Topsy Lane in 2002.
"That was nine months from pouring the foundation to receiving a certificate of occupancy," he said