Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
As the building that housed the former Whistle Stop Mall was being demolished and following a neighborhood compatibility meeting last week, the town of Franklin Planning Board heard a request from Ingles Markets for a Special Use Permit to allow a 88,928 square foot development to be constructed at the former Whistle Stop Mall Property.
Based on requirements set out in the town’s Unified Development Ordinance, Ingles has to go through a Special Use process to gain approval from the town to construct the development. The Special Use permit is needed because the size of the development being proposed is significantly larger than what is outlined in the UDO. The area will also have to be re-zoned from a C3 district to a commercial and planned district in order to operate under town regulations.
The first step in the Special Use process was the neighborhood compatibility meeting held last week, which invited property owners within 400 feet from the development boundary to ask questions or share concerns. With no objection from the public, the second step is to gain approval from the town Planning Board.
After a brief presentation on the development from Preston Kendall, Project Manager for the development, members of the planning board asked questions regarding the traffic surrounding the project.
The development proposed six access points on the site, four along the Georgia Road and two along Belden Circle. The plan includes the installation of a traffic light across from the Macon County Community Building which will also be one of the main access points to the shopping center. Planning Board member Todd Duvall shared concerns with the first entrance of the development before approaching the traffic light heading south.
“I would like to see a decelerate lane at that entrance because so many people take that hill quickly and with today and all the texting and driving I see that as being a safety concern,” said Duvall.
According to Kendall, a decelerate lane isn’t possible at that entrance due to the proximity to the bridge, there isn’t enough room. But he noted that with the installation of the traffic light, traffic will be slowing and will be more conscious of the speed.
The majority of the concerns posed by the planning board surrounded traffic in and out of the grocery store, a lot of which are questions that are left unanswered because the results of how traffic will actually surround the development depends on what the North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to do to improve the Georgia Road. As is stands now, the DOT plans in 2017 to begin securing right of way agreements for the stretch of road and plans to completely redirect and improve traffic on the road in 2020. Depending on the DOT’s plans for the road, which aren’t available to the public, a lot of the questions and concerns of planning board members may be answered.
After revising the five Finding of Facts needed to approve a Special Use permit which includes: the development promoting the public health, safety and general welfare of the community; the development having adequate public facilities such as water and sewer access; the development complying with all UDO guidelines; the development being compatible with the particular neighborhood in which it is located; and that the development conforms with the general plans of the town’s Principles of Growth; the planning board unanimously voted to recommend approval of the special use permit for Ingles Markets.
The next step in the process will come on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the next town of Franklin board meeting where a public hearing will be held regarding the special use permit before the Franklin Board of Aldermen vote to officially approve it.