Traffic and the Proposed Country Club Walmart

As reported in local news outlets a Walmart grocery store that is being proposed for a site near the intersection of Meadowlark Drive and Country Club Road is concerning to folks in that neck of the woods and understandably so. That area already experiences some significant traffic issues in the morning and afternoons due to the presence of Meadowlark Elementary and Middle schools and the fact that Meadowlark serves as a major conduit for people traveling to US-421 from Robinhood Road and points north. 

Yes the concerns about traffic from additional development are valid, but if you look at the city/county planning staff's report and recommendation to the planning board you'll see that the proposed development reduces the traffic impact versus what could happen with current zoning. From the staff report:

Existing Zoning: HB-S
71,650/1,000 x 42.94 (Shopping Center Trip Rate) = 3,077 Trips per day

Proposed Zoning: HB-S for Parcel C:
41,179/1,000 x 42.94 (Shopping Center Trip Rate) = 1,768 Trips per Day. Note: this trip estimate does not include the two out parcels D&E which would require Final Development Plan approval. 

As you can see the trip rate is substantially reduced over what a developer could do without a rezoning if they so desired, and even if the two outparcels are developed they will have to get approval and the additional traffic they might generate could be considered at that time.

If you look at the plan you'll also see that the developers are going to provide a connection to the adjacent Brookberry Park Apartments which should help reduce trips on Country Club made from the apartments to the store.

Finally, there are already plans for improving the roads near the intersection which should help alleviate some of the congestion at the intersection. While volume is certainly an issue the expanded turn lanes will help move traffic through the intersection more quickly and reduce the backups that occur during peak traffic.

Long story short, if this was a rezoning from residential to commercial and the lots along that stretch of road were primarily single family residential then the case would be much more problematic. As it is the land has been zoned for this type of use for a while – in other words the horse is already out of the barn so there's no reason to close the door – and the proposed development is actually an improvement over what could be done as-is.  In fact, if the city council goes against the planning board's recommendation the developer has said he might just reconfigure his plans to fit the current zoning:

A representative for engineering firm Genesis North Carolina and developer Columbia Development of Columbia, S.C., said the proposal is a modification of the plan approved for the site in 1998. He said that if “push came to shove” and the city council didn’t approve the proposal, the developer could move forward with the original plan, which calls for more parking spaces and square footage for the building than the new proposal.

But he said the old plan has some flaws, while the new proposal offers tree protection, stormwater provisions and connectivity.

If the city didn't want to see the area developing as it is then they never should have zoned it for this use. Given that the city did zone it this way then the next step is making sure that projects fit and don't have a negative net impact on the surrounding community. Given their choices here it's hard to see how they can be justified to turn it down wholesale. They can certainly negotiate for changes to the plan, much like it looks like the staff already negotiated to get the connections to the apartment community included, but in the end they will likely need to approve the project or risk a less attractive option being developed in the future.

Last thought: if you changed the name of the petitioner from Walmart to Trader Joe's do you think people would be this hot and bothered?

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