Right now, the Ingles occupies 98,377 square feet. The existing shops adjacent to the grocery story occupy about 10,135 square feet, and the Ingles Gas Express takes up about 2,300. The former Belk building, long empty, encloses more than 50,000 square feet. All told, that’s more than 161,000 square feet of retail space.
Site plans show up to 14 new retail spaces will occupy what are now mostly vacant parcels adjacent to or in front of the existing structures, totaling more than 98,000 square feet of new retail space.
That figure doesn’t include the redevelopment of the Belk building; plans show a series of retail spaces of varying sizes will be constructed in front of the current façade of the building and the Belk building itself being divided into two large retail spaces with entrances planned for what is currently the rear of the building.
A large parking lot is also planned for that spot, which is currently a forested tract home to what’s called the “Barber orchard” property. A car wash is also planned behind the existing gas station on a vacant tract that backs up to the Belk building.
As currently constituted, only about 110,000 square feet of the existing retail space is being utilized at the site, but if Ingles’ plans are approved by the Waynesville Planning Board — and then by town aldermen after a subsequent public hearing — and all of the buildings experience full utilization, the total retail square footage would total almost 260,000.
The town would likely see an impact from the associated job creation that would come with the new retail space, as well as increases in sales tax and property tax revenues.
Like almost every other aspect of public life in the county, the state, the country and the world, the Ingles project has been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus.
A required public hearing on the Ingles project that was slated for March 16 was canceled earlier that day due to the lack of a quorum on the Planning Board; a number of other town meetings, including the first meeting of the Homelessness Task Force and a regular meeting of the Waynesville Public Art Commission, were also canceled.
Given that public hearings of the type sought by Ingles must by law be advertised in advance, it’s likely that public hearing won’t take place for a week to 10 days, or more.
Waynesville Town Manager Rob Hites said March 17 that he didn’t anticipate canceling the Board of Aldermen’s regularly scheduled March 24 meeting.
“Practically, I think the worst is yet to come, and I’ve got some things that need to be approved,” Hites said. “If I wait two weeks or four weeks, there may be more [COVID-19] cases, and there will be more business to address in these meetings.”
Hites also said that he was hopeful that the March 24 Board of Aldermen meeting would occur as scheduled.
“We kind of feel that we need to show the public that the government can continue to run,” he said. “We also need this as a forum for board members to bring up concerns, and to give the board and the public a chance to make any statements they want to make.”
The town will follow direction from Haywood County that attendees at meetings should stay at least six feet apart, and that the doors remain closed during the meeting, according to Hites.