Outrage is growing among businesses neighboring the new Walmart Superstore in south Gardnerville. As if the existential threat posed by the world's largest retailer weren't enough, infrastructure for the project has blocked access to a number of businesses off Service Drive.
Last week, an 880-foot median was laid along Highway 395 to create a stacking lane for a new intersection at Grant Avenue, which will be the entrance to the 152,373-square-foot store expected to open by Black Friday.
The problem is the median blocks left turns onto Service Drive. Business owners are also concerned that U-turns will not be allowed at the new stoplight.
"If my customers really want to get to me, they'll probably find me, but anything that makes it less convenient can't be good for business," said Jason Spohr, owner of CarQuest off Baltic Avenue, a spur of Service Drive.
Alex Hall, branch manager of Ahern Rentals, found irony in the creation of a new road from Service Drive to Grant Avenue. Now, he said, Ahern customers thwarted by the median will have to "meander" through the Walmart entrance to get to his business.
"Detouring everyone through the Walmart parking lot will obviously have an effect," he said. "They're calling it a stacking lane for people turning left into Walmart. It's pretty ridiculous. We've had multiple calls and complaints. It's going to kill half our business."
Hall said the company first heard rumors of major street changes when Walmart went through the design review process in 2009.
"Everything was preliminary at that point, not set in stone," he said. "We got a call earlier this year about it, and the wheels started turning. Nothing more was said until a couple of weeks ago, then it was, 'Hey, a median's going in.' We called the county, and they told us it's up to the state. I made a phone call to the owner, and he's tried to make a couple of calls."
Hall believes most of his customers drive south from town, meaning they will now have to turn left either at Southgate Drive farther north or at the new intersection.
"We weren't fond of Walmart before because of the small-town mentality here, but this, blocking our access, is a double-whammy," he said. "At least put a gap in the median to turn left."
Hall also addressed left-turn access onto Southgate Drive.
"We've got to bring the rigs in and out of there for loads," he said. "There's a lot of industrial on Southgate, and trying to get access off it is going to be a mess. The county is going to have to do something about it because the traffic is going to triple."
Last Friday, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesperson Scott Magruder said the state had nothing to do with the median or the new intersection other than permitting.
"It's a permit through the county," he said. "The county came to us as part of the Walmart improvements. We're not doing the work."
On Tuesday, Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky explained that the new median extends approximately 460 feet past Service Drive to the north.
"The median is required by both NDOT and the county to meet safety and traffic flow standards," he said in an email. "The median is intended to address the traffic and safety issues as a result of the number of vehicles stacking on Highway 395 for left-turn movements onto Grant Avenue. Once Grant Avenue and the connection from Service Drive to Grant Avenue (Carrick) are completed in the next few weeks, drivers will be able to access left-turn movements onto Highway 395 from Grant Avenue and Southgate Drive. The stoplight at Grant Avenue is anticipated to be complete by the time that Walmart opens, which should be by the end of November."
Mokrohisky said the permit for the improvements was approved by NDOT. The median, he said, was designed RO Anderson and constructed by Atlas Contractors.
"NDOT played a part in the design as part of the permit process, along with the county," he said. "The median placement is similar to the median located at the intersection of Highway 395 and Waterloo/Toler Lane, which restricts southbound movements onto Highway 395 from the Smith's center."
Mokrohisky said there would be a brief presentation on Service Drive at the Oct. 4 county commission meeting in Minden.
"Any residents and businesses with questions or comments should feel free to attend for more information," he said.