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Wal-Mart in Jefferson

Artist's conception of the proposed Supercenter facade in Jefferson as of April 2006

Wal-Mart Wants To Come To Jefferson

If small towns grow like a child from toddler to teen to adult, certainly the appearance of Wal-Mart is one of those life-changing events along the way.  Some towns turn away, others embrace.  Some regret their decision and others do not.

I look forward to the debate. It centers on economic development.  It will focus on the legal and financial methods by which communities can attract or reject businesses.  Our County and its cities routinely spend a great deal of money in the name of spurring economic growth and attracting new businesses, but I think these economic development committees rarely stop to consider what they're wishing for. The discussion will revisit the very notion of why governments have the power to allow or disallow businesses to enter their community.

In Fort Atkinson, the threat of a Wal-Mart spurred the formation of the Heart of the City group, who actively opposed it by working closely with the City Council.  Once Wal-Mart was turned away from the city's west side, the Heart group stayed together and broadened its mission to continue to improve the community life in Fort Atkinson.

In Jefferson, when the rumors began to fly after Wal-Mart's surveyors appeared on the south end of town, the Council debate began.  It wasn't long before the Coalition for a Better Jefferson was formed, a group organized by business owners associated with the Piggly Wiggly and County Market grocery stores in town.  Their interest is clear: a Wal-Mart with a supermarket would greatly affect their business.

- John Foust, Webmaster


June 16, 2006 - New developer's agreement

The City Council discusses the latest revision of the development agreement for Wal-Mart. Read it here.

April 20 - Coalition gives up on its case

The Coalition for a Better Jefferson voluntarily dismisses its case against the City of Jefferson. Read it here.

April 12 - Plan Commission hears Wal-Mart updates

A Wal-Mart architect, attorney and landscaper made a presentation to the Plan Commission. Details include a new rendering of the new Germanic-themed facade (seen above, or here in full detail) and the City's proposed adjustments to the developer's agreement. Read the March 20 draft of the developer's agreement here.

To view the entire McClure Engineering Powerpoint presentation that explains many details of the roads, drainage and construction details, click here to view it as a 6 meg PDF file (that requires Acrobat Reader.)

April 11 - Jefferson Development Commission member resigns

Jim Van Lieshout resigned from the JDC, citing reasons related to the way the City and the commission dealt with the Wal-Mart issue, and to defer to the choices of the new incoming Mayor.

April 4 - Spring elections and Wal-Mart developer's agreement draft

All of the pro-Wal-Mart candidates for City Council won the spring election, preserving the 6-2 balance seen in previous votes on the Wal-Mart issue. The City has a new Mayor in Gary Myers. Incumbents Gene Benka and Chris Havill kept their seats. New Council members include Paul Peachey and Toby Tully, Jr.

In that evenings's Council meeting, the zoning for the Wal-Mart parcel was approved. The Council met in closed session to discuss a draft of the developer's agreement that was negotiated between Wal-Mart's attorneys and our City Administrator and City Attorney. Read the March 20 draft of the developer's agreement here.

In the morning, a court denied the City's March 15 request for reimbursement of fees.

March 30 - Town of Jefferson sues City of Jefferson

The Board of the Town of Jefferson files a lawsuit against the City of Jefferson, protesting the annexation. For many years, the Town has asked the City to meet to negotiate a new border agreement, but the City has generally ignored this request. The Town's action protests further annexations and demands that a boundary agreement be negotiated.

March 28 - Former Council member, candidate Tim Bare speaks on Wal-Mart

Here is an opinion piece from Tim Bare, a former Council member and a candidate in the spring 2006 election. In them, he outlines problems he sees in the Council's thinking, and specific conflicts with the proposed Wal-Mart and the city's master plan.

March 25 - Negotiate with Wal-Mart in secret?

Will Jefferson negotiate with developers in secret? They did in Beaver Dam and Milton. Read John Foust's story here to learn how it could happen in Jefferson.

As a side dish, here is the campaign literature from several of the candidates in the spring Council election.

March 21 - Annexation and zoning passes

The Council passes the annexation and zoning change for the 22 acre parcel desired by Wal-Mart on a 6-2 vote. This marks the third time that the Council voted on this issue.

March 15 - City files motion for fees

The City filed a motion requesting that the Coalition pay its attorney's fees. Read it here.

March 14 - Appeals court drops temporary stay

The Court of Appeals lifts the temporary block against annexation. Read it here. The findings are here.

February 9 - Wisconsin Builders Association joins in

The Wisconsin Builders Association filed an amicus brief in support of the City. Read it here.

January 27 - Coalition responds to City

Here are the court filings from the attorney for the Coalition for a Better Jefferson that outlines their objections to the City's response.

January 24 - City responds to Coalition

Here are the court filings from the City of Jefferson attorney that outline their objections to the Coalition's petition, explaining why they believe the Council was justified in denying to bring the proposed ordinance to a referendum.

January 3, 2006- Plan Commission member speaks out against Coalition

This statement was read by Chris Nash, owner of Century 21 Integrity Group, and member of the City of Jefferson Plan Commission, at the January 3, 2006 meeting of the Common Council. Watch the video.

At the same meeting, St. Coletta asked to rescind its request for annexation for its large property at the east of Jefferson.

At this meeting, the Council again unanimously refused to take the Coalition's petition to referendum. On January 11, the Coalition released a press release.

December 28, 2005 - Temporary restraining order against City of Jefferson

Judge John Ullsvik granted a 45-day temporary restraining order against the City of Jefferson, granting the Coalition for a Better Jefferson's request. It prevents any annexation for 45 days, to allow more time for a future court date to decide the issue.

December 19 - Coalition files a lawsuit against City of Jefferson

The Coalition for a Better Jefferson filed a lawsuit against the City of Jefferson, in order to force them to put forth the ordinance referendum before the voters. Read the press release here and the court filings here.

November 22 - Pro and con Wal-Mart movies

Dozens of people attended public showings of the anti-Wal-Mart movie "WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price" in Jefferson and Fort Atkinson. A pro-Wal-Mart movie has also been released, called "Why Wal-Mart Works."

Artist's conception of the proposed Supercenter facade in Jefferson as of November 2005

November 18 - Madison environmental attorney comments on Council denial

Brent Denzin, an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates, a Madison environmental law center, weighs in with his opinion on the Council's refusal to advance the proposed annexation ordinance.  

November 15 - Council refuses to take action on petition ordinance

The City Council refused to take action on the proposed ordinance, neither approving it as-is nor advancing it to a referendum. In a statement from Ald. Robert Coffman, he made a motion to do nothing due to the ordinance violating several points of the guidelines set down in court cases regarding the nature of propsed direct legislation such as this. A proposed ordinance cannot be administrative in nature, the courts have said, nor can it contradict State law.

The Mount Horeb test case is online here. The state has a good guide to direct legislation, too.

November 15 - Coalition TRO denied

The day the City Council planned to make the first reading of the renewed annexation request made by Wal-Mart's engineering firm on behalf of the landowners, the Coalition for a Better Jefferson took the City of Jefferson to court to ask Judge Ullsivik for a temporary restraining order.

Ullsvik denied the request, saying that the Coalition had not demonstrated that there was an immediate danger of harm if the Council proceeded with this first reading. However, Ullsvik said he would leave the case open, allowing either party to easily return to court.

Read the notice, summons, complaint, temporary restraining order, and affidavit from John Rhiel, provided courtesy of Atty. David Halbrooks.

Before the hearing, Judge Ullsvik denied my request to record the proceedings, uneasy to declare a web-based journalist as "news media". Read my objection here.

October 10 - Petition to create Land Study Ordinance

The Coalition for a Better Jefferson - the anti-Wal-Mart group - is circulating a petition that could result in a new ordinance requiring four types of studies - environmental, traffic, infrastructure and community impact - before the City could annex 15 acres of land.

The petition is being circulated under the Wis. Stat. 9.20, which allows a petition to propose a new ordinance. With a sufficient number of signatures, the Council has a choice to adopt the ordinance as-is or place it as a referendum on the next ballot. In Jefferson's case, the petition requires just 307 signatures. Read the full text here.

The petition was created as a result of recalled alderman David Olsen working with a law firm who drafted the petition for the group without cost.

September 27 - Recall results

The recall election is over - the winner is Chris Havill, with 880 to 815 with 1,699 votes cast, and four write-ins.

In case you're wondering, the four write-ins were Lester C. Jacob, Tim Bare, Noelle Wilharm and Glenn Neiderwerfer.

September 21 - Campaign in full swing!

Webmaster John Foust contributes an analysis of Ald. Olsen's postcard mass-mailings.

September 19 - Candidates file pre-election finance reports

Both candidates file their finance reports. Read the details here. Havill finances his own campaign expenses of more than $2,000 and takes no contributions. Olsen solicits $825, all but $35 from out-of-town contributors, and anticipates spending $3,500 with a Madison political consultant. The post-election reports are here.

August 2005 - Ald. Olsen files complaint against Ald. Beyer for swearing in a bar

On July 29, Ald. Olsen filed a complaint against Ald. Peg Beyer with the Jefferson Police, claiming "he was offended, shocked and annoyed" that she called him "a fucking liar" during an argument about Wal-Mart at the Landmark tavern after a Council meeting. Ald. Beyer was upset with (in her view) Olsen's statements at his media conference that implied that she had been paid by Wal-Mart to change her vote on the annexation.

The Police referred the case to the Sheriff's department, who began an investigation, then interviewed Ald. Olsen, witnesses Ald. John Wagner, Ann Palm, Ald. Beyer and bartender Tom Giorgi, who lent the wise assessment of the situation as "nothing that he hasn’t seen on many occasions in the bar."

The Sheriff's department concluded its investigation on August 17 with a verbal warning to Ald. Beyer.

Olsen is no stranger to filing complaints for swearing, as shown here and here.

August 2005 - Petition forces a recall election

In early August, the Coalition for the Best Jefferson turned in petitions with (by their count) more than 1,000 signatures to force a recall election of Ald. Olsen.

City Hall verified the signatures and announced that a recall election will take place on September 27. If more than two candidates file before the September 6 deadline, then a primary will be held September 27 and the final election October 25.

Olsen's debacle is described in a July 23 article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel titled "Jefferson alderman could pay a high price for opposing Wal-Mart". Olsen appears to be spreading word of his story in other venues, such as Wisconsin political blogs from conservative here to liberal there, and tempered with puff pieces with Goodwill magazine.

July 2005 - Ald. Olsen Recall Petition Filed

On July 6, 2005, a committee calling themselves the "Coalition for the Best Jefferson" filed the official paperwork to register to attempt to remove Ald. David Olsen from office. Olsen opposed the Wal-Mart annexation. Their reason was "David J. Olsen has violated the Open Meetings Laws of the State of Wisconsin and has not acted in the best interest of the City of Jefferson, Wisconsin." The two names on the paperwork for the "Coalition for the Best Jefferson" are Charlotte G. Nevin and Cheryl L. Higgins, two voices known for supporting Wal-Mart. No doubt this name is meant to tweak the nose of the "Coalition for a Better Jefferson," the name used for years by the anti-Wal-Mart forces in town.

June 2005 - Annexation fails a second time

On June 7, the annexation failed a second time, 5 to 3. Alds. David Olsen, David Stewart and David McGrath voted against it. A super-majority of 6-2 or better is required to pass an annexation.

May 2005 - Annexation fails, then reconsidered

On May 3, the annexation request was defeated by a vote of 5 to 3. Ald. Wagner, Ald. Coffman and Ald. Gang cast votes in favor. At the next meeting on May 17, Ald. Benka requested that the annexation vote be reconsidered.

JDC chair Tom Pinnow resigns.

April 2005 - We're the hole in the doughnut?

Here's a link to Wal-Mart's store locator, showing a map of the stores surrounding Jefferson. Once there, click the "Zoom In" button once to see the stores in arrangement around Jefferson.

March 28, 2005 - Letters from Tom Pinnow and the van Lieshouts

The debate continues in the Daily Union, with a pair of letters from Jim and Barb van Lieshout and JDC chairman Tom Pinnow.

March 15, 2005 - First request for annexation

Read the Council notes and see the map with the ordinance proposing annexation of the Wal-Mart property.

February 16, 2005 - JDC Presents its Research Findings

Read a 6 megabyte PDF of the Jefferson Development Commission's preliminary research.

December 2004 - JDC President Opposes Referendum

Here is a letter (as his personal opinion) from Tom Pinnow, president of the Jefferson Development Commission, opposing the referendum proposed by Ald. David Olsen.

December 2004 - Proposed Referendum Question

On the agenda of the December 21, 2004 meeting of the City Council, Ald. David Olsen proposed a non-binding referendum question on the April ballot to guide the Council's decision: "ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE OF THE CITY OF JEFFERSON ALLOWING WAL-MART TO BUILD A SUPERCENTER?" Other spelling and grammar mistakes can be viewed in the original resolution.

November 2004 - Letter from the Rodeway Inn to the JDC

This letter is from Bob Patel, the owner and general manager of the Rodeway Inn on the south side of Jefferson, near the proposed Wal-Mart site. Bob sent this letter to the Jefferson Development Commission.

September 2004 - Rough draft of Wal-Mart agreement existed all along?

At the Tuesday October 19, 2004 City Council meeting, Patti Lorbecki asked if the City had received a proposal from Wal-Mart. The Mayor said no, there was no proposal on the table, that they hadn't received anything since the September 28 forum.

The next day, rumors started that the City had indeed received a draft proposal from Wal-Mart. On October 22, JDC President Tom Pinnow sent out this message, confirming the existence of the proposal with the City Administrator and expressing his displeasure that the JDC and the public hadn't heard of it.

Marked "DRAFT", it was sent via email to the City Administrator on September 27, the day before the forum. The draft was not mentioned at the forum. Here is the draft from Wal-Mart.

September 2004 - Jefferson Development Corporation Queries Coalition

On September 29, 2004, the day after the City forum, the newly-elected president of the City's Jefferson Development Commission sent a letter to Dave Lorbecki of the Coalition for a Better Jefferson. The letter was sent by Tom Pinnow on home-made letterhead and spoke as if this was an official inquiry from the JDC - but it wasn't. This sparked a debate among the JDC members as to whether Pinnow had overstepped his bounds and whether this would affect the publc's perception of the JDC's role in city development. Read the original JDC letter from Tom Pinnow, and a followup from two days later. Pinnow sent a draft to City Administrator for approval and told JDC members that he had received that approval.

September 2004 - City Forum: Coalition and Wal-Mart Speak

On September 28, 2004, the City of Jefferson hosted a forum to allow the public to hear two sides of the Wal-Mart issue. One viewpoint was from the Coalition For A Better Jefferson. The other was from Wal-Mart representatives. About 300 people attended.

During its presentation, Wal-Mart used a Powerpoint slideshow. They have graciously agreed to share it with Their full presentation is here.

September 2004 - The Sierra Club addresses the Jefferson Development Commision

In September 2004, Brett Hulsey of the Sierra Club made a presentation to the Jefferson Development Commission. His Powerpoint slideshow is here. Hulsey is the Coordinator of the Sierra Club 's "Challenge to Sprawl Campaign". He is the author of “Sprawl Costs Us All,” “Solving Sprawl,” and more than 20 reports on land use, transportation, flooding, and pollution.

June 2003 "Big box" ordinance passes

The Plan Commission and the City Council approved a "big box ordinance" controlling the size of large retail businesses. Also included are the Plan Commission minutes from the meetings that discussed this ordinance.

February 2003 Legal Sanctions

Bob Mau submitted this letter to the editor to and the Daily Jefferson County Union.  In it, he points to a document at the Wal-Mart Personal Injury Survivor web site, particularly under item K, "Sanctions", or legal decisions and penalties against Wal-Mart.

January 2003 Wal-Mart Survey

Chris Nash, of Century 21 Integrity Group and a Planning Commission member, conducted a survey of Real Estate brokers and Chambers of Commerce in other Wisconsin communities with Wal-Marts.  His survey is reproduced here with his permission.

January 2003 Tom Pinnow Letter to the Editor

On January 16, Tom Pinnow submitted this letter to the editor at the Daily Jefferson County Union newspaper.  It is republished here with Pinnow's permission.  In it, he explains his typewritten question to Al Norman.

January 2003 Appearance of Al Norman

On January 13, 2003, the Coalition for a Better Jefferson will bring Al Norman to town to speak.  Founder of Sprawl Busters, he's literally written the book on how to keep Wal-Mart out of your town.  Here's the Coalition's Daily Union advertisement of the event.  

Browse the many slides of the full Powerpoint presentation that Al Norman gave during his talk on January 13.  The full presentation is here on

January 2003 Appearance of Al Norman

On January 13, 2003, the Coalition for a Better Jefferson will bring Al Norman to town to speak.  Founder of Sprawl Busters, he's literally written the book on how to keep Wal-Mart out of your town.  Here's the Coalition's Daily Union advertisement of the event.

November 2002 Coalition Advertisement

This nearly full-page advertisement appeared November 25 in the Daily Jefferson County Union, paid for by the Coalition for a Better Jefferson.  Its question-and-answer format presents a local perspective on the issues that face every community facing this question.

Architect's conception of the proposed Supercenter site in Jefferson

Aerial view of southern Jefferson, oriented the same as the plan above.

The water tower and its shadow are visible above, in the triangle of Highway 26 and County Highway K.