Residents of a northeast Raleigh neighborhood are supporting plans for a new Walmart store at the intersection where they successfully fought a proposal for a Sheetz gas station two years ago.
The Northeast Citizen Advisory Council voted 40-12 on Thursday in favor of a Walmart Neighborhood Market at the intersection of New Hope and Buffaloe roads.
But some advisory council members say a long-term plan meant to protect the intersection from certain kinds of development falls short.
South Carolina-based shopping center developer WRS Inc. wants the city to rezone 16 acres to make way for Walmart Neighborhood Market, a smaller version of the big-box store.
After gathering public input, the developer included some conditions in the request. For example, certain businesses such as gas stations would not be allowed in the outparcels on the site, and there would be a larger-than-required buffer between the stores and nearby homes.
The Raleigh City Council would have to give final approval to the request.
The city council voted down the Sheetz rezoning in the fall of 2013. Hundreds of neighbors signed petitions objecting to the rezoning, saying it would bring increased trash, traffic and loitering to the neighborhood.
On Thursday, Raleigh staff presented a revised small area plan for the New Hope and Buffalo Road intersection during a community meeting. Small area plans serve as policy guides for planning staff and the council.
The revised plan reflects residents’ desire for pedestrian improvements and limited building heights for new development. It also suggests more strict transitions between residential and mixed-use development.
Some residents said the plan lacks protection from unwanted development.
“I was hoping for a guide and protection for the intersection,” said resident Michi Vojta. “What has this got us? What protection does it provide?”
Vivian Ekstrom of the city’s long-range planning department said there is “strong policy guidance to mitigate the effects of development” in the area.
Neighbors shared their ideas for future development at a workshop last September. The city continued to receive comments via email, Ekstrom said.
City staff presented the first draft of the plan to residents in January, then tweaked the plan based on feedback.
An area plan is not a development ordinance, Ekstrom said. Residents asked for stronger language and a way to ensure parcels maintained their current zoning, but there’s no way to ensure land will be zoned a certain designation forever.
The plan won’t be revised again, although residents will have the chance to speak during public comment periods of city council meetings.
“I had higher hopes for the plan and how it would protect our neighborhood,” said resident Michele McIntosh. “I’m not as hopeful now.”