Proposed Wal-Mart draws objections

Knightdale people see it as nuisance

Staff WriterJune 12, 2006 

  • WHAT: Knightdale Land Use Review Board meeting

    WHERE: At the Knightdale Town Hall, 950 Steeple Square Court

    WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight

— When Knightdale's Land Use Review Board meets tonight, it will have Wal-Mart to thank for a larger-than-usual turnout.

As it has in communities all over the Triangle, the retailer's expansion plans are drawing opposition from a handful of Knightdale residents.

Cary developer Wakefield Associates wants to put a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the back of a 51-acre piece of property that fronts the south side of Knightdale Boulevard, also known as U.S. 64 Business. Two neighborhoods, Timber Ridge and Widewater Village, sit adjacent to the land where the store and a large retention pond would be built.

Some residents in those neighborhoods say they don't want a 206,000-square-foot Supercenter, which will be open 24 hours, as a neighbor. They say the store will inundate their neighborhoods with traffic, light, noise and crime, among other nuisances.

The average size of a Supercenter in the United States is 185,000 square feet, according to Wal-Mart.

Before the issue can go before Knightdale's Town Council, the Land Use Review Board must make a recommendation on the rezoning request. Only three people attended the board's meeting last month when a vote on the project was tabled.

But since then, several residents have formed Citizens for the Cessation of the Knightdale Supercenter, a group that is trying to persuade officials to oppose the Wal-Mart. Last week, more than 30 people attended a meeting organized by the group.

The group's three founders --Sherri Schultheiss, Rita Rakestraw and Paula Gavasto --spent much of the meeting telling attendees why they believe the Supercenter would not be a good addition to the community. The meeting began with a 20-minute clip from "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices," a documentary that vilifies the retailer for its business practices.

Gavasto, who lives on Mingocrest Drive in Timber Ridge, said she objects to the Supercenter because of the store's size and proximity to homes, and because it's a Wal-Mart. Gavasto said since learning a Supercenter might be built behind her house, she's tried to find out as much as possible about the company. She said she has problems with the way Wal-Mart treats its employees and worries about the environmental impact the store will have.

"I don't shop at Wal-Mart anymore," she said.

Attendee Walt Crist, who lives in Widewater Village, said he has nothing against Wal-Mart. He said he opposes the project because the land where the Supercenter would be located is not zoned for that type of commercial development.

"If you just bash Wal-Mart, I think you're going to turn off the Town Board," he said during the meeting.

A work in progress

Rick Rowe of Wakefield Associates said his group has exceeded the town's buffer requirements around the Supercenter and has met with nearby residents to try to address their concerns. The Wal-Mart store would be about 250 feet from homes, and a fence would run along the length of the property, he said.

"We've worked with neighbors to enhance those buffers," Rowe said.

Rowe said his company has been working with Knightdale's planning staff on the project since October. The entire development would have about 430,000 square feet of commercial space, and the Supercenter would be one of several anchor tenants. Rowe declined to name any other anchor tenants.

The property is close to the new Interstate 540 extension, which is expected to open in November, and the Shoppes at Midway Plantation, Wakefield Associates' other major commercial project in Knightdale.

Town Council member Terry Gleason, who attended last week's resident-organized meeting, said he has not seen the most recent plans for the project. But he said he wants to make sure resident concerns are addressed.

The developer plans to grade the property, which slopes downhill from Knightdale Boulevard to where the neighborhoods begin. Gleason said legitimate questions have been raised about whether elevating the back of the property will accentuate the noise and light coming from the store, or cause drainage problems for the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Knightdale Supercenter would replace the town's existing Wal-Mart, an aging store further east on Knightdale Boulevard. It is one of two new Supercenters being proposed in eastern Wake. Zebulon's planning board recently approved the construction of a Supercenter on East Gannon Avenue off U.S. 264.

Staff writer David Bracken can be reached at 829-4548 or dbracken@newsobserver.com.

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