Town officials in Waynesville, North Carolina have apparently got a big problem with big box stores. The Citizen-Times newspaper reports that the town is “going to take a harder line” with companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The Board of Aldermen and the Planning Board are reviewing plans to raze a former industrial plant and build a shopping center called Waynesville Commons. Waynesville’s land-use plan, which was adopted by voters in 2003, does not condone big-box developments. That plan requires retail parking to be in the back to create a “street wall” of store alignment, and buildings that are attractive and pedestrian-friendly. When the Aldermen reviewed the standard big box site plan from the developer, one Board member was quoted as saying, “Folks, if you can’t tell that is a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot, you are Blind.” The Board was not receptive to loosening the requirements on fa??ade appearance. Small business owners in Waynesville complained that the town should not give Wal-Mart any relaxation of zoning restrictions that other businesses had to comply with. “Wal-Mart has a lot of money,” one small business owner said. “If they can help a big company, why can’t they help me?” The town has already granted $1.3 million to a non-profit agency to buy the old Dayco plant, which manufactured rubber, and where Wal-Mart wants to locate. But the town’s land-use plan clearly supports development that is compatible with the town, and promotes pedestrian access. The town’s Planner is willing to bend the rules like rubber for Wal-Mart. He told the Citizen-Times that compromising on some of the town’s zoning laws is a good idea if needed to make the Dayco plant redevelopment happen, and that the town’s Land Use Plan is “a little strict.”
If building scale, and pedestrian amenities are “too strict”, town officials should follow the growing trend to simply put a cap on the size of buildings. Until towns like Waynesboro get serious about limiting scale, they will continue get big box sprawl, which runs counter to what most residents in this community want for their future. They want an Uncommon Waynesville Common — but with a Wal-Mart supercenter, they will never get it. The town planner’s approach turns the city’s land use plan into a piece of useless rubber.