Rock Hill residents speak up on Walmart plan

adouglas@heraldonline.comNovember 5, 2013 

Rock Hill’s Planning Commission heard concerns of residents Tuesday night about plans for a Walmart neighborhood market store on Celanese Road, near the Ebinport Road intersection.

About 60 people attended the public hearing; most who spoke said they were opposed to Walmart’s plan to build a 41,000-square-foot grocery store near their homes. Two people spoke in favor of the plan.

Planning Commission members did not vote on the issue Tuesday night.

The Walmart site developer is asking the city to rezone and annex into Rock Hill about 14 acres where the neighborhood market and other retail stores would be built.

Approval of the request would classify the land as “planned development commercial,” which is a customized zoning category that allows city officials to approve site plans before construction starts.

The land is occupied by a single-family home and a vacant day care on Celanese Road.

On Tuesday, residents voiced concerns about the potential for increased traffic and the impact a retail shopping area would have on quality of life and property values.

The development site is close to Swan Meadows, a neighborhood just outside Rock Hill’s city limits.

Swan Meadows sits between India Hook and Celanese roads, flanked by the potential Walmart store and residential properties. Walmart plans to build a fence and plant trees to create a barrier between its store and the neighborhood.

Development plans call for a Walmart-owned gas station, its neighborhood market-style grocery store, a 217-space parking lot, two stormwater retention ponds and other retail shops fronting Celanese Road.

Plans also include widening and realigning the existing Ebinwood Road, which connects part of Ebinport Road to Celanese Road. A traffic signal would be added to assist drivers in turning off Celanese Road onto Ebinwood Road.

Richard and Norma Denton, who have lived in their Celanese Road home for 52 years, are ready to sell their 8.75 acres to Walmart if the rezoning and annexation plans are approved. Their land is the largest chunk of property needed for the development.

On Tuesday, they told The Herald they’ve been approached before about selling their land for commercial use, including for a church, a grocery store and a storage unit facility.

Richard Denton’s family has owned the land since 1939.

The couple has seen the area boom with development. They say this is the best time to sell because they are looking to downsize their home.

Walmart’s plans for the land should improve the area, the couple says, because the development will be new, clean and convenient. And the road changes should improve safety at Ebinport and Celanese roads, Richard Denton said.

The couple did not want to disclose Walmart’s offer to buy their property.

Nearby, Swan Meadows resident Courtney Boling lives in her home on Wentworth Drive with her husband and two children.

The new Walmart would be nearly in her backyard, but she’s not opposed to the development, she said, as long as the company keeps its pledge to build a substantial buffer.

A proposed 6-foot wooden fence is probably not enough, she said.

Boling said she figures some type of commercial development will happen on the land Walmart wants to buy.

A Walmart selling only groceries is not as intrusive to her neighborhood as some other commercial development could be, Boling said.

The Planning Commission will likely vote on the rezoning proposal in December and pass along its recommendation to the Rock Hill City Council.

A Walmart representative told The Herald on Tuesday night that the company is committed to finding ways to alleviate nearby residents’ concerns and the developer is revising design plans to try to do so.

The neighborhood market Walmart store would be among more than 200 of its kind nationwide but one of the first in South Carolina.

Walmart estimates the Rock Hill store would create 90 jobs, most of which would be full time.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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