Walmart grocery developer makes changes to plan

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The developer of a proposed Walmart grocery store near the intersection of Meadowlark Drive and Country Club Road has made a few changes to its plan, including a left turn lane on Country Club.

Columbia Development, based in Columbia, S.C., wants to build a 41,179-square-foot Walmart neighborhood market on the north side of Country Club Road, just east of Meadowlark Drive.

The proposal was met with opposition from various neighborhood groups when it went before the City-County Planning Board.

“Our primary concerns were first and foremost traffic,” said Michelle Soyars, a representative of the Century Oaks neighborhood. “We have a serious traffic issue already and we have a lot of concerns about the roads and the improvements that needed to be made to the roads to handle that.”

She said that neighbors were also concerned about the appearance and façade of the Walmart and maintaining the character of the area.

The planning board approved the Walmart market in September. The Winston-Salem City Council was originally scheduled to hear the proposal on Monday, but the proposal has been continued and will come before the council on Nov. 25.

Modifications to current plan

When the petition was heard by the planning board in September, a representative for the developer said the Walmart proposal was a modification of a strip-mall plan approved for the site in 1998. He said the new plan, which calls for a stand-alone Walmart, would have less parking and square footage than the current plan for the site.

Representatives for the developer and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have met with neighborhood groups two times. Council Member Robert Clark helped set up the meetings and organized a committee made up of neighborhood residents to review the developer’s plans. The most recent meeting was held this week.

“Columbia Development has continued to work with the community to address their concerns as it relates to traffic improvements and aesthetics of the site,” Developer Ellen Dietrich said Friday.

She said that company officials are confident the community will be pleased with its current plan that includes additional traffic improvement of extending the left turn lane on Country Club Road at the intersection of Meadowlark Drive, as well as landscaping and lighting upgrades.

Council Member Robert Clark said the developer also added better connectivity to nearby apartments, including a walking path, benches and lighting.

Clark said other changes include a masonry wall in the back of the grocery store to hide loading docks and dumpsters, façade improvements and a type of parking lot lighting aimed at reducing the amount of light that would spill over onto adjourning properties.

He called the proposed left turn lane on Country Club Road at the intersection of Meadowlark Drive, which was included voluntarily by the developer, a significant improvement and investment.

“The committee (members) are taking these additional changes back to their neighborhoods to meet with their neighbors and discuss them,” Clark said.

He is waiting on feedback from committee members.

“But we will make a decision on the 25th of November because everyone has decided it will not be continued after that,” Clark said.

He also said that a Walmart representative has said that if the company does not get approval for the new plan, it is prepared to build what is currently zoned for the property — the strip shopping center.

Wait and see

Soyars and Maythi Calvert, who represent the Brookberry Farm neighborhood, said they were happy with the help neighbors have received from the city in getting more information about the developer’s plans. They declined to comment on the new changes until they have a chance to meet with other neighbors about them.

“I think that the city did a good job after the fact of including the citizens and listening to our concerns,” Calvert said. “We feel like Council Member Clark did a fabulous job of organizing meetings and making sure that all the information that we needed we received and that we were all able to make good decisions from that information.”

Amanda Henneberg, a Walmart spokeswoman, said the retailer values input from the community and has made several modifications to upgrade elevations for the grocery store so that it is consistent with the surrounding community.

“To more and more Winston-Salem residents, living better means the ability to walk into a Walmart and find affordable food that will help their families live healthier lives,” Henneberg said. “We think our Neighborhood Markets can be part of the solution in Winston-Salem to help ensure our customers in the area have access to the products they need.”

By Fran Daniel/Winston-Salem Journal

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