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BI-LO’s transformation to housing moves forward

Big changes are in store for the BI-LO plaza on Russ Ave. Haywood GIS photo Big changes are in store for the BI-LO plaza on Russ Ave. Haywood GIS photo

First steps are being taken on a major new residential development proposed for the site of a former grocery store and strip mall on Waynesville’s busy Russ Avenue. 

The project, called Mountain Creek Plaza, was first reported by The Smoky Mountain News last November when RFLP Group, the owner of the 8.8-acre $3.6 million parcel, announced that the BI-LO grocery store would be torn down and existing strip mall tenants Kim’s Pharmacy, Los Amigos restaurant and Silver Treasures jewelry store would be evicted. 

Since then, all three have found new homes, but with the recent submittal of a master plan to town development officials, the residential project is likely to pick up steam quickly. 

The plan, created by Civil Design Concepts, calls for the demolition of the existing structures, and the construction of 210 units spread across two four-story buildings. 

The project narrative outlines a number of benefits the proposal could bring to the community if approved. 

Waynesville has a well-publicized shortage of residential development, even with the forthcoming addition of 200-some units of workforce housing in a complex off Plott Creek Road. 

Removal of the existing commercial building would provide a high-intensity infill reuse within walking distance of the Russ Avenue commercial corridor, and is less than a half-mile from downtown Waynesville, Frog Level and Waynesville’s recreation center. 

The developer, Tribridge Residential, has offered the town a 20-foot easement to accommodate a proposed greenway trail along the banks of Richland Creek, and has also proposed some best management practices for stormwater management. 

Currently, no stormwater management exists on the site, which in the past often resulted in oil, dirt and debris from the grocery store parking lot being swept into Richland Creek. 

But the apartment complex will actually occupy a footprint 1.5 acres smaller than the existing structures, providing more area for water to naturally dissipate. All impervious surfaces within the floodway will be removed, and landscape/open space improvements will help to break up what is currently a shadeless, uninterrupted plain of pavement.

The development should also result in less vehicular traffic — a peak hour trip generation study submitted with the plan estimates the grocery store and strip mall businesses resulted in a total of 5,558 daily trips to or from the site, but the apartment complex would generate just under 1,400. 

A connection for pedestrians and vehicles though the site is also proposed, from Russ Avenue to West Marshall Street. 

Developers have requested a rezoning from the current Russ Avenue Regional Center district to Russ Avenue Regional Center Conditional District because of impending changes to Russ Avenue itself. 

A preliminary document from Waynesville Planning Director Elizabeth Teague to the town’s Planning Board suggests that the zoning amendment is consistent with the town’s comprehensive land use plan. 

That document is subject to Planning Board approval on Sept. 16, at the conclusion of a public hearing. 

If the Planning Board agrees with Teague’s conclusions, the request will then go before the Town of Waynesville Board of Aldermen. 

The Board of Aldermen will then hold another public hearing prior to considering the request. The board’s options at that point would be to reject the request, adopt the request with changes or conditions, or adopt the request as-is. 

Copies of the plan are available for public viewing at Waynesville’s Development Services Department.

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