Wal-Mart negotiating for two Warner Robins grocery stores

mstucka@macon.comJune 10, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Wal-Mart is negotiating with Warner Robins officials to build a pair of its Neighborhood Market stores in the city.

Planning and Zoning Commission members voted Tuesday night to sign off on the stores if Bill Mulkey, the city’s building and transportation director, can settle a broad dispute over parking. The stores are essentially grocery stores with drive-thru pharmacies and gas pumps, and about 40,000 square feet of shopping space.

One of the stores would be built on the former site of The Family Mart building at the corner of North Houston Road and Green Street. The other would be built along Russell Parkway next to a CVS store that’s on the corner of Lake Joy Road.

City Engineer Walter Gray said the city traditionally has required about 10 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of shopping space and has allowed variances to about nine parking spaces. A Wal-Mart attorney said the company has been building spaces at a rate that’s about half of the city’s requirement.

“Wal-Mart really has it down to a science, and that’s what we’ve gotten approved in every other jurisdiction,” said attorney Jennifer A. Blackburn.

In each location, Wal-Mart is requesting permission to build 168 parking spaces instead of 326.

Mulkey told The Telegraph he hopes to complete negotiations within a few weeks. The variance for parking would not need to get approval from City Council.

However, City Council could vote as early as Monday night on development guidelines for an older portion of Warner Robins. The standards mostly cover commercial and industrial properties along stretches of Watson Boulevard, Green Street and Davis Drive. A City Council-approved moratorium is about to expire but gave the Redevelopment Agency time to draft the standards, which call for a better look in the city, such as brick, stone and stucco-like exterior finishes.

Robbin Gosline thinks that in the long run, the city’s efforts will help raise property values by improving the appearance of the area. The owner of a commercial building along Davis Drive, she worries the city may be putting too much emphasis on Watson Boulevard, where the city built a police station and may build a big plaza in front of City Hall.

“I have high hopes,” she said. “I just wish it would progress a little further on that part of town.”

The development guidelines would affect only new construction and buildings undergoing an extensive renovation. Because of that, some of their effects would not be seen for decades.

The Planning and Zoning Commission formally voted Monday to recommend them to City Council.

“I’m glad you’re doing something,” Chairman Eric Blazi told architect Doug Hayes, vice chairman of the Redevelopment Agency.

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