Mount Airy residents remain opposed to plan to construct Wal-Mart Planning, zoning panel discusses expansion of Route 27 shopping center

November 10, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy Planning and Zoning Commission tackled plans again last night for expanding a 20-year-old shopping center and adding a Wal-Mart discount store to the site along Route 27. The session was a continuation of a four-hour meeting last month that also drew about 60 people, many of whom commented on traffic problems at Mount Airy Shopping Center.

Last night was no different as residents complained about traffic and urged the commission to deny the application.

"You need a traffic study that does not limit itself to what the state highway requires as a minimum," said Jack Caddy, a member of Citizens for a Better Mount Airy. "You need the study to be made with this community in mind and how traffic from such a large store would affect our town."

A developer has presented plans for adding about 38,000 square feet of retail space, including an expansion of the Safeway Supermarket, the anchor store. The plan also calls for an 85,000-square-foot discount store, such as Wal-Mart, on 14 acres behind the grocery.

A traffic consultant for the developer used a computerized model to simulate traffic flow on roads surrounding the shopping center.

One resident compared it to a video game.

"We don't live in a video game," said Craig Grabowsky. "Every evening there's a backup on [Route] 27. The proposed store will add 6,000 cars a day, and the model still shows no backup."

The commission originally deferred its decision to allow members time to review proposed road improvements to the property at Route 27 and Ridgeville Boulevard. The parcel is zoned commercial, leaving the town little reason to deny the application. But turning patterns at the high-traffic intersection concern the commission.

The town planner has recommended that the commission deny Wal-Mart access to Main Street. If the store is approved, shoppers would use entrances at Ridgeville Boulevard and Route 27, both of which the developer will improve.

The commission must decide if proposed road improvements, including a signal at the Ridgeville Boulevard entrance, would alleviate congestion around the center. Traffic consultants and maps detailing access patterns did more to confuse than convince the commission last month.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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