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Major retail development clears first hurdle

Major retail development clears first hurdle

With nearly two years of prep work already under their belts, developers have cleared the first major hurdle for bringing a $20 million, 56,000-square-foot retail project that will include a Publix to Waynesville.

The Waynesville Planning Board heard details about the much-anticipated proposed “Waynesville Pavilion” project Monday night when developers and engineers laid out their site plan and requests for variances to accommodate the oddly shaped land on Russ Avenue.

The retail project includes a 49,098-square-foot retail store and a separate 7,200-square-foot building that can house up to six tenants. Developers have not named the anchor tenant, but documents filed with the planning office confirm that it is Publix. The developer MAB American Management LCC, also has prior experience working with Publix to open new stores. 

After hearing an hour-long presentation from Town Planner Elizabeth Teague and the project’s developer, engineer and architect, the planning board unanimously approved the site plan with certain conditions and will forward the project on to the Waynesville Board of Aldermen for final approval. The town will have to hold a public forum regarding the project before final approval. 

The proposed site plan for the project includes four parcels that total 6.3 acres near the intersection of Russ Avenue and Frazier Street. If approved, businesses located in the area — The Big Red Barn, The Lodge Motel and many of the warehouse businesses up Frazier Street — would be demolished to make way for the redevelopment. Sagebrush restaurant is part of a separate lot and will remain intact. 

In order to make the tight space work for the development, MAB American is asking the town for a “conditional district rezoning” within the Russ Avenue Regional Center Conditional District. 

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“The applicant is requesting flexibility in the design and layout of the structures, parking lot and other infrastructure that would support retail use on this specific site,” Teague told the planning board. 

The town’s land development code would require the applicant to seek a special use permit for deviations on parking, landscaping and buffering, but Teague said a conditional district rezoning allows the town to be more flexible with the design standards on a particular project. 

That route is ideal for this particular development, she said, because of the many restraints the site presents. 

“This site is very challenging with several constraints. Topographically you know it slopes up toward Smoky Mountain Highway and north along Frazier Street and it’s surrounded by public right of way,” she said. 

There is also a creek that runs under Russ Avenue and under The Lodge and doesn’t see daylight until the culvert at the corner of Russ and Frazier, which presents some environmental concerns. 

Teague said the good news was that the site plan submitted is in line with the Russ Avenue road widening and improvement plan that has been funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and set for construction in 2022. 

The site plan also includes widening and improvements for Frazier Street, which will act as an entrance to the development as well as the main route for delivery trucks. 

The back of the development abuts the Love Lane residential area and will require some additional buffering. Teague said that would be handled with a large retaining wall included in the site plan. The retaining wall will also help with the unique sloping issues on the site. 

MAB’s site plan also includes plans to install an underground stormwater drainage system, something that has been lacking in that area, and plenty of new landscaping in the parking lot and surrounding the buildings. That’s all in addition to the economic impact the construction will bring, said Jennifer Losurdo, a civil engineer with Columbia Engineering.

“MAB is looking to invest $15 to $20 million to redevelop these properties. It will revitalize the area by providing a retail center, providing up to 200 permanent jobs, and 200 construction jobs over the 18-month construction period as well,” she told the board.

The planning board approved the requests with certain conditions recommended from the planning staff. The staff wants the developer to work with NCDOT to acquire additional right of way on the corner of Russ and Frazier to create a left turn lane, add additional landscaping on the road frontage and additional façade treatment along Frazier Street.  

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