BURGAW, NC (WECT) - Walmart is officially on its way to the Town of Burgaw.
After almost four hours of discussion during a public hearing Tuesday evening, the unanimous vote from the Burgaw Board of Commissioners was met with mixed reactions from the public.
The nearly 70,000 square foot store, to be built on NC Highway 53, will include grocery, produce, bakery, and an assortment of everyday goods.
But before the ground work can begin, Walmart and it's team of lawyers and engineers must meet a list of conditions voted on by the Board of Commissioners.
Some board members and Mayor Eugene Mulligan expressed concerns about Walmart's site plan, including traffic congestion, customer safety, and infrastructure.
One of the conditions placed by the Board of Commissioners is for the applicant to monitor the traffic count along Highway 53 for six months after the initial opening of the store. The results of that traffic count would then be sent to the NCDOT for review and any needed modification.
Another condition is to extend the right turn lane along Highway 53 in an effort to minimize traffic congestion along the busy highway. The town has asked traffic engineers to update the site plan to accommodate their concerns before any preliminary work is complete.
The NCDOT has also mandated that Walmart add a traffic signal at the main access point in front of the store.
Traffic Engineer Rynal Stephenson, who is contracted with Walmart, said other improvements include adding a left-turn lane into the main entrance, and adding right-turn lanes for two alternative entrance points. He also explained that the back driveway of the store will be for "exit only" and will be primarily used by trucks.
"The main goal is to allow through traffic to pass and not back up on to the highway," Stephenson said. "We are working to accommodate drivers and pedestrians as well."
Chief Sutton with the Burgaw Police Department also expressed her concern about a lack of fencing between the new Walmart and the existing Pender Landing Shopping Center. Sutton explained that there is a large number of foot traffic in that area.
Commissioners ordered the developers to add appropriate fencing to the site plans in order to meet the needs of police use.
The idea to build a Walmart gathered a lot of attention from the public in recent months as the proposal made its way through the planning board and on to the Board of Commissioners.
About a dozen residents spoke out on Tuesday night on either side of the store.
Critics argue that Walmart will create traffic problems and take away the "small town feel" of Burgaw. Some also argued that while a new Walmart will bring jobs, it will have a negative impact on the existing local businesses. Noah Harrell is part of the family that has owned Harrell's Department Store in downtown Burgaw for more than 100 years. Harrell says Walmart could destroy his family business.
"It saddens me to think that an outside company like Walmart could come in here and jeopardize our future," said Harrell. "It will be hard to compete because Walmart isn't about competition. It's notorious for wipe-out."
Proponents say that a Walmart in town would create hundreds of jobs for Burgaw and give people a chance to shop conveniently as opposed to traveling to Wilmington or other places. Carol Tutherow said she's excited about the new options for shopping.
"It's going to offer jobs for one thing and bring more merchandise to the town so we don't go outside of town to shop," said Tutherow. "Competition can be a good thing for a community. Maybe Walmart can give our small businesses a little competition and prices can go down."
Before Walmart can officially start breaking ground in Burgaw, they must first obtain a storm water permit, a DOT permit, and meet the conditions voted on by the board.
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