APEX — Costco is one step closer to coming to town, although some neighbors worry the big-box wholesaler will bring too much traffic and endanger students at nearby Apex High School.
The Apex Town Council voted this week to rezone a tract of land and to approve the site plans for a commercial development, called Nichols Plaza, between Laura Duncan Road and Shepherds Vineyard Drive off U.S. 64.
The council voted after five hours of debate and presentations from the developers, town staff and residents.
In standing-room-only council chambers, residents argued that traffic coming to a Costco store would endanger Apex High School students who cross the busy U.S. 64 on foot.
The wholesale retailer would likely draw shoppers from all over the Triangle to an already-congested road, they said.
“Kids are crossing that road 24/7,” said Alex Yarem, 17, a senior at Apex High. “I’d hate to see someone lose their life over something we could prevent now.”
According to the Apex Police Department, there have been about 75 accidents in four years at the two intersections that would service Nichols Plaza.
Some residents said the store would be better suited for sites off of N.C. 540.
At least one councilman, Gene Schulze, agreed with residents that the Costco wasn’t the right fit for the site off U.S. 64. He voted against the site plan.
“I don’t think it’s compatible,” Schulze said. “It’s a big box development. … There are going to be a lot of people converging in this small area. It’s a high intensity retail operation where there is residential nearby.”
Councilman Scott Lassiter argued that developers did meet the compatibility threshold because the property was zoned commercial.
“If not Costco, what else?” Lassiter said. “No part of me wants to see commercial of that magnitude. However, it is zoned that way.”
Lassiter was against the rezoning, which was approved before the site plan, but was outvoted.
Nichols Plaza will have about 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, including Costco. There are nine outparcels within the development.
Costco will create 125 full time jobs and 125 part time jobs, said Graham Wilson, executive director with the Apex Chamber of Commerce.
Wages start at $11.50 an hour and average $20 an hour, he said.
Developers will also pay about $3.4 million to extend Pine Plaza Drive and add water and sewer that will open up 20 acres for development and increase property tax base, Wilson said.
The company and developers did everything they could to ease possible traffic woes, council members said.
Costco agreed to create a larger-than-necessary buffer to better screen the building from the road. It also agreed to add some brick to its facade, increase stormwater maintenance requirements and complete about $3.4 million in road improvements.