01/11/06 — Town's new Wal-Mart asking for rule change

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Town's new Wal-Mart asking for rule change

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 11, 2006 1:54 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Wal-Mart is planning to build a store in Mount Olive, town officials said Tuesday night.

The company asked the Mount Olive Planning Board for permission to increase the density of parking at a proposed store site behind the Southern Belle restaurant. The board voted 4-3 to recommend to the town board members that more vehicles be permitted per square foot of store space. The town board has the final say.

Rumors about Wal-Mart coming to Mount Olive have swirled for months, but neither town officials nor company officials would confirm the report. A telephone call to Wal-Mart corporate headquarters today was not returned by press time. The company's Web site listed new stores opening in November, but none since then.

The site projected for the Mount Olive store is on adjacent tracts of land owned by Borden Howell Jr. and Hugh Oates. Howell owns a 17-acre tract and Oates a 10-acre tract. The land has been annexed by the town.

The split vote came after a discussion over potential parking problems. The proposed location is within the town's heavy commercial zone, which permits one parking space for every 100 square feet of floor space. Wal-Mart asked for a special use permit to allow one space for every 200 square feet.

Some members of the planning board pointed to the Wal-Mart store in Goldsboro and said parking there is too congested. They opposed the special use permit.

Town zoning officer Danny Keel said he checked with neighboring municipalities that have Wal-Mart stores within their jurisdictions and found varied parking densities. Clinton's store has six parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of floor space, he said. Dunn's store has one parking space for every 200 square feet. Goldsboro's store has one parking space for every 300 square feet.

"What we're proposing is in line with other areas," Keel said. "A lot of people I talked to could not believe ours was one (parking space) per 100 square feet."

The proposed change is in line with the allowed parking density at Dunn, and Planning Board member Gena Knode, who made the motion to allow the special use, said she often shops at the Wal-Mart store in Clinton and has never had any trouble finding a parking space, even during the holiday rush. What Wal-Mart is asking for in Mount Olive would be provide similar parking space, she said.

Planning Board members Knode, Eva Hill, Tyrone Kornegay and Oliver Cook approved the special use permit. George Fulghum, Kenneth Lee and Jimmy Bayles opposed the change.

The three members who voted against the change said they were concerned about shoppers having trouble finding parking spaces during a holiday rush.

Wal-Mart created more than 125,000 jobs last year, according to statistics on its Web site. The average salary was $10.11 per hour.