Plans to build a grocery store at a major intersection in Apex were scrapped Jan. 19, after nearby residents overwhelmingly opposed it.
Lidl, a German company, is one of the world’s largest retailers but has little presence in the United States. It’s starting its transition on the East Coast and selected Apex as one spot for expansion. But the site it chose – at the corner of Olive Chapel Road and West Williams Street – brushed up against two established neighborhoods.
The Town Council voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request that the store needed to proceed. But council members asked Lidl’s local representatives not to take the defeat as a sign the store isn’t welcome.
“We would love to have you here,” Mayor Lance Olive said.
He said the council would prefer a different location and suggested they meet with the town’s economic development director, Joanna Helms, to find a more suitable site.
The land Lidl had wanted is higher than the surrounding homes in Amherst and Glen Arbor, and residents said the store would have towered over them and reduced their property values.
They also cited concerns about flooding from stormwater runoff, as well as increased traffic, light and noise pollution, the smell of rotting produce in the dumpsters and the rumbling of trucks as they made deliveries a few yards away from their homes.
About 50 neighbors came to the Apex council meeting Tuesday to protest the store. More than a dozen people spoke against it, including one young boy who said he loves playing in the woods behind his house and didn’t want to lose that if a store moved in.
Echoing comments from an earlier meeting, several of the residents said they oppose Lidl because it’s a European company that will compete against U.S. grocery stores. But some on the town council cautioned against that line of thinking.
“I kind of take offense, somebody says, ‘Oh we don’t want a foreign company,’ ” Gene Schulze said.
Several people also said the town shouldn’t allow Lidl because there already are almost a dozen grocery stores within a mile or two. But Schulze said that reasoning didn’t influence his vote.
“If there are 10 competitors around you, but you think you can do, then do it,” he said. “This is America.”
Instead, the council appeared to oppose the store because residents helped the town craft a plan for the site a decade ago that called for three small commercial buildings, not one large store.
“A small grocery or specialty store, I think we all would like,” said Bruce Rifleman, a nearby homeowner. “A restaurant, we all would like. But this is going to lower my property values because nobody wants to live next to a big box store.”
The standing-room-only audience broke out into applause when the council ultimately voted to deny the store, after about 90 minutes of discussion and debate among the council, neighbors and grocery store representatives.
“Lidl is a good company,” council member Bill Jensen said. “ I think it would be a good asset to Apex, frankly. But not on this spot.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
The town council also voted to:
▪ Finalize a design for Pleasant Park. That will allow the town to start working with NCDOT and a nearby railroad to alleviate some neighbors’ concerns about safety and traffic, and to begin work on getting permits for construction.
▪ Approve a new housing development near the Beaver Creek shopping centers that will bring in 212 apartments and 73 townhomes.
▪ Approve annexing properties in west Apex for the Deer Creek subdivision (246 homes) and a new phase of The Manors at Bella Casa (43 homes). The already approved neighborhoods needed annexation to begin construction.