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Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:00

Unified voices calling for a better big box

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When Waynesville leaders met earlier this month to discuss the site plan and variance requests for the proposed big-box development at the old Dayco site, it seems they spoke with a unanimous voice, urging construction of something other than an off-the-shelf retail center.

“We would like to challenge you to come up with a plan that is innovative, resourceful and creative,” Rex Feichter, chairman of the town planning board, told developers.

Feichter’s challenge echoes what most of the citizens who take part in the civic life of this community have been saying about this project, which will reportedly have a Super Wal-Mart, a Home Depot, a Staples and other smaller stores. Though many say they’ve been tempted to jump on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon, discussion so far has remained more constructive. Instead of bashing, which is easy and just plain fun, it’s been a civil, intelligent conversation about what people in the Waynesville community want. Here’s some of what some of those at the meeting of the town board, planning board and community appearance commission had to say:

• Architect Luis Quevedo, a member of the town’s community appearance commission, was told “yes” when he asked if native building materials like stacked stone and exposed timbers could be used.

• Mayor Henry Foy wants more landscaping in the parking lot, which will have more spaces than the existing Wal-Mart. Current plans simply don’t have enough green space, said Foy.

• Planning board member Patrick McDowell said constituents told him it would be unfair to grant variances to large corporations when small businesses have gone to the expense of meeting the town’s tough land-use requirements.

• Alderman Gavin Brown said the development has to be pedestrian friendly: “I want people walking on South Main Street.”

So do we. This is a very large neighborhood district with hundreds of nearby homes and many more on the drawing boards. We want youths to be able to ride their bikes to the development and then feel safe walking around the interior of its pedestrian-friendly design.

The point has been raised by developers that the town’s land-use plan did not foresee this kind of development. Many of those involved in the creation of the land-use plan disagree, arguing its details were included so that a big-box development would have to be different. Regardless of who’s right, the input and interest that citizens showed through the dozens of meetings that went into creating the land-use plan pointed out something much more important: those who live in Waynesville care. That’s what the development of the land-use plan revealed, and it’s a truth that is coming out again as this development moves toward a ground-breaking.

Those arguing against granting this developer its requested variances must keep in mind the stakes. There is a chance they could walk away, and a few years of work in recruiting someone to do something with an aging, polluted industrial site could be lost. It’s a reality that must be considered.

All signs so far point to a very positive resolution to the give-and-take between town leaders and the developers. We encourage Cedarwood Development to listen to citizens and make this project something Waynesville will embrace. Town leaders should keep prodding until they get what they and their citizens want. In the end, it is possible for both sides, in the words of the illustrious Rolling Stones, to “get what you need.”

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