The Town of Chapel Hill held a lengthy public hearing last Wednesday night regarding plans for a new grocery store coming to the area.
The future site of the 130,000-square-foot Wegmans grocery store will be 15 acres and located between 15-501 and Old Durham Road – the current location of Performance AutoMall.
The council opened the public hearing to receive comments and evidence regarding the Special Use Permit Application for the site and recessed the hearing to October 25.
The public hearing discussion included making modifications to the Special Use Permit restrictions in order to better accommodate the grocery store chain, such as making a height exception for Wegmans’ 80 foot clock tower plans.
Town building restrictions usually only allows buildings to be 60 feet, but town manager Roger Stancil says it’s important for the town to meet Wegmans’ requests.
“This clock tower is iconic; it is a key component of the Wegmans’ brand; it is a place-making opportunity for that site. And my perspective is that this is not an excessive request,” said Stancil.
The biggest concerns for residents surrounding the future grocery store were changes to traffic flow on Lakeview and Old Durham road and clarity of entrance points for the site.
According to the current plans, once the grocery store is on site, motorists coming from Scarlett Drive will only be able to turn right onto Old Durham, and the service road access near Hardees will no longer be an accessible entrance for customers.
Planning commission member Buffy Webber expressed concerns over increasing confusion in an already traffic-heavy area.
“It’s not easy. Part of our discussion about the monument sign was to have everybody who was coming from I-40 to know as quickly as possible how to get to Wegmans,” said Webber. “The people really don’t know how to navigate now, and I don’t know how its going to get any easier with people who aren’t familiar with it, so that was our very strong feeling as to why to have that monument sign.”
Currently, the plans for the grocery store have entrance points only on Old Durham Road.
Chapel Hill resident Charles Berlin says that he lives withing a five-minute walk of the proposed site and that he is more than thrilled to have a Wegmans so close, but is concerned about cyclists and pedestrians how grocery carts will cross Old Durham Road with no crosswalk plans.
“Something that nobody has mentioned is that, it appears from all the diagrams I’ve seen, that shopping carts will be going across Old Durham between the two parking lots there right next to the roundabout. That seems to me to be both a safety issue for the people pushing those shopping carts as well as further slowing down the traffic that particular place in the roadway,” said Berlin.
The Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County agreed last October to an economic incentive package over five years to bring the New York chain to Chapel Hill.