A zoning administrator in Union County, North Carolina has thrown a wrench into the works in Wal-Mart’s plan to build a supercenter near the town of Monroe. According to the Charlotte Observer, the county official decided April 22nd. that Wal-Mart needs to get a special use permit to build a 206,000-square-foot supercenter in the county. This provides local residents with a fresh opportunity to stop the store before the County Board of Adjustment. In January, the county changed its zoning code to require a special use permit for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet.The land Wal-Mart wants is zoned commercial, but last May the County passed an ordinance that limited the size of shopping centers at 120,000 square feet. However, residents were disappointed last Septembert when the County Zoning Administrator allowed Wal-Mart to be “grandfathered” under the old code that had no size limit. But the new ruling creates an opening for residents. “If in fact this does go through the special use process, we certainly would be looking forward to the opportunity,” resident Dorothy Bryant told the Observer. “The important part of this that was ignored from day one was the people’s side.” “I feel that this is at this point a very nice victory for our area,” said Lisa Murphy, a resident of the nearby Somerset neighborhood.
Now Wal-Mart has to show the County Board of Adjustment that their store is compatible with the surrounding land uses, that it won’t hurt propoerty values, etc. A special permit is not a mandate on the County. They now have the discretion to deny the special permit. Clearly this scale of development is not what the county wants, as evidenced by their “cap” on the size of shopping centers, and the requirement for a special permit based on scale. More and more communities are either banning large stores by placing dimensional limits in their codes, or at least requiring large stores to go through a more rigorous special permit process.