10/05/05 — Change makes spot for retailer

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Change makes spot for retailer

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 5, 2005 1:53 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The town of Mount Olive is holding its collective breath, waiting to hear from retail giant Wal-Mart about a long-awaited possible location of a store near the town.

Wal-Mart officials are expected to contact local property owners any day now about buying land on the northwest side of town for a shopping center. An official announcement would come soon after.

Owners of property behind the Southern Belle restaurant have waited months for the process of annexation and rezoning, a major hurdle to clear before they can sell their land. An unnamed retail company has expressed interest in building on the land off Bert Martin Road and N.C. 55.

The land was in the town's extra-territorial jurisdiction and was zoned for agricultural and residential use.

But the Mount Olive Town Board voted unanimously Monday night to annex the land and rezone it for heavy commercial use.

Town officials said the company interested in buying the land does not plan to make any public announcement until after the land has been annexed and rezoned.

The property that was annexed and rezoned is owned by Borden Howell Jr., who has 17 acres, and Hugh Oates, who has 10 acres.

Neither town officials nor the property owners have been willing to say who the potential developer is. But rumors about Wal-Mart coming to town have circulated for months.

Oates said this morning he hasn't heard a word from the company he is dealing with, which is currently going through the contracts, he said.

"I think we have it mostly worked out," Oates said. "Hopefully we'll hear from them in a few days."

Town Manager Ray Mc-Donald said the next step after a company buys land is for the new owner to come to the town's building inspector with a set of building plans. McDonald said a state environmental official told him any time that a large parking lot is needed that the developer has to take care of any potential drainage problems. McDonald said he is sure that a holding pond would be necessary to prevent flooding on the property.

McDonald also said he has talked with a consultant who is getting the land for the company, but that the consultant can't say who the company is or exactly what their plans are.

"Wal-Mart hasn't said to me they are going to do anything," McDonald said. "But why would they purchase a piece of land if they're not going to build on it? They're not in the real estate business."