The Fayetteville City Council will soon decide whether to rezone about 5 acres along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard where a Walmart Neighborhood Market is planned.
If approved, the new grocery store and fueling station would be built on the northwest corner of King Boulevard and Government Avenue. The property is currently zoned as a mix of C-2 (Thoroughfare Commercial) and I-1 (Heavy Commercial/Light Industrial). The Hannas are seeking to rezone the entire property to C-2.
Aldermen first discussed the rezoning petition on Nov. 6, but tabled the issue at the request of property owners Burt and Thad Hanna.
Stephen Giles, land-use counsel for Walmart and agent for the Hannas, said extra time was needed to come up with a plan that was a good fit for the area.
Concerns from planners
Planning Commissioners rejected the request in October after city staff spoke against the rezoning.
“It’s industrial property that’s got a lot of older buildings on it, all being used for industrial and heavy commercial uses,” said Jesse Fulcher, senior city planner. “So it almost feels easy to rezone it to anything else, honestly, than leaving it as I-1.”
But, Fulcher said, the C-2 zoning district, which requires buildings to be built away from the front of the property and encourages parking lots to be built in front of the building, is not in keeping with the city’s long-range planning goals for the area which encourage pedestrian-friendly developments.
Commissioners agreed and said they would like to see the property be developed under a form-based zoning district, which encourages buildings to be constructed along the street with parking in the rear.
Concerns from residents
Two residents who spoke in October disagreed, and said a new grocery store is badly needed in that part of town.
Dwight Rash, a 40-year resident of south Fayetteville, said having a new Walmart in the neighborhood would be much more convenient than driving to the west side of town or to the uptown area.
Alex Mahler, who owns rental properties near the proposed development, said a Walmart would improve the property and would at least make it look better than what’s there now.
Several residents who opposed the rezoning sent emails to aldermen and city staff.
Jared Delaney, who lives on South Gregg Avenue, about 500 feet from the proposed development, said he was worried about the impact a Walmart would have on neighborhood traffic.
Molly Carman, who lives about a half-mile from the site on Locust Avenue, said while she would welcome a grocery store in the area, Walmart should be held to a higher building standard in a part of town that’s seen recent improvements in walkability and more urban design.
Concerns from aldermen
Alderman Mark Kinion said he was most concerned with the wide range of developments that could be built under the C-2 zoning if Walmart backs off its plans before the store is built.
“In the event that this specific retail operation doesn’t go in there and then it’s rezoned, there’s no guarantee that something else wouldn’t go there that might be less desirable,” said Kinion. “When I look at a zoning change I’m not looking specifically at a specific retail operation, but I’m looking at the total impact…in the long term.”
Alderman Matthew Petty said he felt “very strongly” about the need for the property to be developed under a form-based zoning district.
“I, for one, am very cognizant of the kinds of logistical challenges that will have to be solved if you do this the way that we’re asking,” Petty told Giles, “but I think they can be solved…because I’ve seen you do it in other communities.”
Michael Lindsey, Director of Public Affairs for Walmart, said Tuesday morning that the company is committed to making several additions to the property to ensure the development is a good fit in the community.
He said the site will include expanded landscaping; a bicycle repair station near the newly expanded Frisco Trail; sidewalk setbacks along King Boulevard; covered seating areas for public transit users; and a public art display.
Lindsey also provided a rendering of the proposed development which shows a grocery store with parking in front of the building, along with a multi-pump fueling station near the corner of King Boulevard and Government Avenue.
Jeremy Pate, the city’s Development Services director, said as of Tuesday afternoon, the Hannas had not changed their rezoning request to include one of the city’s form-based zoning districts.