Wendell Walmart approval up in the air

CorrespondentApril 26, 2013 

Ira Fuller

— The vote will come on May 13. That’s the night the Wendell Board of Commissioners is expected to decide whether to grant a request to alter Wendell’s open-space requirement to accommodate a proposed Walmart Express store.

The Walmart Real Estate Business Trust has asked that the town amend its Unified Development Ordinance, town planner David Bergmark told commissioners at Monday’s regular meeting.

“The applicant has filed for a … text amendment to essentially change the threshold from when (open space) would be required from a structure of 10,000 square feet to a structure of 50,000 square feet,” Bergmark said.

Wendell’s rules establish open space requirements for developments between 10,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet.A different set of rules apply for developments larger than 50,000 square feet. Walmart’s request would eliminate the need for the company to provide any public open space.

Under the current rules, Walmart would be required to dedicate approximately half an acre to open space in a public area near the front of its roughly 3.4-acre property along Wendell Boulevard.

At a public hearing held during Monday’s board meeting at town hall, no one spoke for or against Walmart’s request to bring one of its new concept stores to Wendell. The stores measure about 15,000 square feet – far smaller than a familiar 150,000- to 180,000-square-foot Supercenters – and the shelves tend to be stocked with basic household goods, groceries and pharmacy items.

Mayor Pro Tem Ira Fuller, filling in while Mayor Tim Hinnant was out on town business, said the board would take action at the next meeting so Hinnant and Commissioner Sam Laughery, who also was away, have time to review the Monday’s minutes and other notes.

The town planning board already has voted to approve the request, so a supermajority of the board – four of the five commissioners – would have to vote no for the request to be turned down, Bergmark said by phone Tuesday evening.

Should Walmart’s request be turned town, the company still may proceed with development. The town’s rules also provide an option for a payment in lieu of open land dedication. The amount of that payment is calculated at 15 percent of post-development value, Bergmark said.

Commissioner Christie Adams asked how much the payment in lieu might be, but Bergmark said that number was not yet available because town staffers still have not received a development plan for the property. Bergmark said the staff was not able to arrange a meeting with Walmart representatives after the March 25 board meeting.

If approved, this wouldn’t be the only concession the town has made to Walmart.

Previously, to accommodate the proposed development project, the board approved a rezoning request to change the maximum setback from 50 feet to 100 feet for the site and an annexation request for several parcels that make up the vacant property adjacent to the fire department.

teri.boggess@gmail.com.

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