Changes open door for Wal Mart and Walgreens

Published 9:27 am Thursday, October 13, 2011

AHOSKIE – Wal Mart may proceed….and so can Walgreens.

Two decisions made here Tuesday by the Ahoskie Town Council proved beneficial to Wal Mart to advance to the next stage of its plans to construct a Super Center on land just off US 13 south.

The third step of Wal Mart’s ongoing process was for the Town of Ahoskie to annex 17.081 acres owned by Mary Francis Perry Johnson, property adjacent to Freeman Metal Products. Johnson submitted the request for annexation. Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust is interested in purchasing that property, which was rezoned by the council at their August meeting from R-20 to B-3.

As advertised, town officials conducted the necessary public hearing prior to voting on the annexation issue. No comments were voiced by the public, prompting Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. to offer a motion to approve the annexation request. That motion passed without opposition.

“This follows the same path of the zoning request, meaning that both the rezoning and annexation become effective upon the sale of the property from Mrs. Johnson to Wal Mart,” Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said.

The second order of business in dealing with Wal Mart’s proposed Super Center was a request made by the company for Ahoskie to change the text of the town’s parking requirements in its zoning ordinance.

Keith Truman, the town’s building inspector and code enforcement officer, explained that request to the council members. Truman said the request initially went before the Ahoskie Planning Board where that public body weighed the pros and cons of the issue.

“Ahoskie has a pretty stringent parking requirement in its town ordinance,” Truman said. “We require one parking space per 150 square feet of a retail store’s customer space. Wal Mart requested 250 square feet per one parking space.”

Truman said a representative from the Mid-East Commission was at that particular Planning Board meeting, adding that person was in Ahoskie to help re-work the town’s 22-year-old zoning ordinance.

“I was able to get some input from them (Mid-East Commission) on what the normal (parking spaces vs. square footage) is out there in the industry,” Truman said. “He told us he has seen that requirement more along the lines of 200 to 300 square feet of retail space per parking space.”

The Planning Board eventually agreed to increase the square footage and passed that recommendation on to the Town Council.

“The only concern about this is it changes the requirement for everyone,” Truman said. “This will also affect other projects we have coming up and will be to their benefit as well.”

Truman went on to say that increasing the square footage vs. the parking spot requirement does lower the number of available spaces in the parking lot of a retail store. However, as he pointed out, there are 340 parking spots in front of the current Wal Mart. He said the new Super Center, with this change in the town’s code, will have between 400 to 500 parking spaces. Without the change there would have been in excess of 700 parking spots.

“They’ve been at this long enough and they know what they need when it comes to parking,” Truman said of Wal Mart. “Other than a week or two before Christmas, they’ve spent a lot of money on a parking lot that they don’t normally see in full use.”

Councilman Malcolm Copeland motioned for approval of the text change amendment. The board passed that measure in a 5-0 vote and the change becomes effective immediately.

After the vote was taken, Truman said the parking requirements change will also prove beneficial to Walgreens, a pharmacy chain that is currently studying plans to build in Ahoskie on the southwestern corner of Memorial Drive at is intersection with Catherine Creek Road (the lot adjacent to the now closed Catherine’s Restaurant).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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