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Wednesday, 26 July 2006 00:00

How to get a ‘better-than-average’ Wal-Mart

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Cedarwood Development is no stranger to big box developments like the one the company is proposing in Waynesville. The company is not new to demands for better looking big box stores either, according to a review of similar projects built by Cedarwood in other cities around the country.

Waynesville’s land-use plan requires big box stores to blend in with the small-town character, with pedestrian friendly parking lots, smaller signs, and a nicer building facade. Cedarwood claims Waynesville’s plan is too strict and is asking for exemptions. But Cedarwood has done more in other towns than it is currently offering in Waynesville.

At a Super Wal-Mart development in Hermitage Crossing, Penn., Cedarwood had to install a curbed landscaped strip every three rows in the parking lot, according to Hermitage Crossing Town Planner Marcia Hirschmann. That’s more landscaping than currently proposed in the parking lot for Waynesville.

In Hermitage, Cedarwood had to plant trees covering 50 percent of the building façade to buffer the visual impact of long, blank walls. In Waynesville, Cedarwood wants exemptions from landscaping the front of the building. In Hermitage Crossing, Cedarwood even had to landscape along the sides and back of the building. Waynesville doesn’t require that.

Also in Hermitage, Cedarwood complied with a 20-foot cap on sign height. In Waynesville, Cedarwood is asking for 35-foot signs.

Hermitage has no requirements for architectural design, but “we did pressure them through the planning commission and planning staff to do a better-than-your-traditional Super Wal-Mart store,” Hirschmann said.

In Waterville, Maine, Cedarwood built a Super Wal-Mart out of brick instead of the typical cinderblock. Cedarwood claims the old factory site it will build on in Waynesville is such a headache to deal with — requiring $2 million in demolition of the old factory buildings — that some slack on design standards is justified. In Maine, Cedarwood had to blast away a granite shelf before building, according to city planner Anne Beverage.

“They built on a piece of land that people thought would never be developed,” Beverage said. “It was very expensive to develop there in terms of getting the sight ready.” Yet the company still managed to afford a brick facade.

In Holland, Ohio, a Super Wal-Mart built by Cedarwood had its grand opening last week. The city planner there offered words of wisdom for Waynesville planners as they consider Cedarwood’s request for a sign height exemption. Like Waynesville, Holland has strict sign height requirements. Holland caps signs at 6 feet. Cedarwood wanted an 80-foot tall sign on a pole. The town felt compelled to grant the exemption because it had granted others.

“I had two others that set precedent so we couldn’t help it,” said Leslie Ferman, zoning administrator. “You’re going to open the door.”

Other than the sign, Holland made Cedarwood comply with its land-use plan.

“Cedarwood was really good,” Ferman said. “Everything we threw at them they responded to. They didn’t balk at a lot of our requests. They fought like the dickens for the sign though.”

In Holland, Cedarwood had to plant landscaping around the perimeter of the parking lot. Waynesville has a similar requirement for a landscape buffer around the parking lot, but Cedarwood is seeking an exemption.

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