Southwest Wake News

Proposed Lidl grocery store rankles Apex residents

A proposed grocery store that would directly border two Apex neighborhoods is stirring protests from nearby residents.

About 30 people from the Amherst and Glen Arbor neighborhoods came to the Nov. 17 Apex Town Council meeting as officials considered rezoning the property near the corner of Williams Street and Olive Chapel Road. The proposed tenant is Lidl, a discount grocery store from Germany with no other stores in the United States.

Many of them voiced strong opinions against the store with concerns primarily about the store’s impact on traffic and nearby residents, among other worries.

Ed Crankburn moved into his nearby house earlier this month.

“Then we found out about the grocery store coming in,” he said. “My wife is very upset about it, and I ain’t too happy either.”

Neighbors have questioned whether another grocery store is the best possible use of the land.

The property is directly south of Walgreens. There already is a Walmart, a Super Target, a Harris Teeter, a Food Lion and a Lowes’ Foods within a five-minute drive of the site. Publix also plans to build a store within that five-minute radius, at the corner of Olive Chapel and Kelly roads. The town council will take that matter up at its Dec. 15 meeting.

“During the last election, a lot of you guys did point out that with Apex being No. 1, we can be selective with what we put in our town,” said Mark Wyman, president of the Amherst neighborhood association. He was referring to Apex’s recent ranking in Money magazine as the best place to live in the country.

Amherst backs up against the property, as does the smaller Glen Arbor neighborhood.

The town council unanimously voted to table a decision until January, at the developer’s request. Many of the neighbors were unhappy with the delay, saying they wanted the project to be denied immediately.

But the town staff and the planning board support the development.

Lidl is one of Europe’s largest retailers. It’s a chief competitor of fellow German discount grocer Aldi, which has stores in the United States and also owns Trader Joe’s.

Lidl announced plans for a U.S. expansion in June, basing its headquarters in northern Virginia. The Apex store could be one of its first, if not the first, in the country.

Concerns over impact

Among the reasons given to reject the project, some residents said they’re concerned that the company isn’t American.

“I’m confused how we’re even considering favoring a foreign entity’s wishes against out needs,” said Amherst resident Maggie O’Keefe.

Other neighbors cited fears centered around the physical impact of the store, namely stormwater runoff, light pollution and traffic.

A group of engineers and consultants who represent the developer, however, said none of those fears are based in fact.

“Our proposed development will meet all federal, state and local regulations,” engineer Frank Miller said.

Wait times at the nearby traffic light would expect to increase by five seconds if the store is built, which engineer Jason Warren said is a minimal impact.

Another representative said the company will go above and beyond town rules by planning for heavier amounts of flooding than what Apex requires, and by taking steps to reduce light from parking lot lights and vehicles.

Neighbors also had been concerned that the store asked permission to operate 24 hours a day after five years. For the first five years, the store would be open between 6 a.m. and midnight.

Glenda Toppe, a former town planner who now consults with developers in the area, is assisting with the project. She said the owners would be willing to stay open from 6 a.m. to midnight indefinitely, and will remove the 24-hour request as a courtesy to the neighbors.

There’s nothing in the town’s current zoning that dictate hours of operation for the site, Toppe said, so if the Lidl project isn’t approved, another store could come in and be open 24 hours.

Council member Gene Schulze said he is glad to table any decision until January. That way, the new Town Council can vote on it, and the developer will have more time to meet with the concerned neighbors.

“It’s customary for us to give more time to work things out with the neighbors,” Schulze said. “Maybe there’s a roadblock, but it’s worth a try.”

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran

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