Four years after withdrawing its plans for a south Forsyth store, Walmart has submitted a new proposal for a supercenter about a mile to the north on Peachtree Parkway (Hwy. 141).
The big-box retailer has applied with the county for a site development permit for a nearly 172,000-square-foot structure on 24 acres at Peachtree and Mathis Airport parkways.
Eight properties, none of which Walmart owns, make up the site in the plans submitted last week.
A site development permit allows a developer to make all the improvements to the land as indicated in the plans, but not the building, which requires a separate permit, said Tom Brown, director of planning and community development.
During the application process, staff will review the plans to ensure all zoning conditions, water and sewer needs, necessary road improvements and other requirements are met in the plans before they will issue a permit, Brown said.
The site is zoned commercial as a result of a county-initiated rezoning in late 2006 as an alternate location to Walmart’s original planned site, which was at what is now Mathis Airport Road near the Laurel Springs subdivision.
That location was contested by nearby residents and the then-newly formed Smart Growth Forsyth County, a local watchdog group.
Current managing director Claudia Castro said Smart Growth presented the current site in question as an alternate to the spot near Laurel Springs.
The original opposition was the proximity to two neighborhoods, existing road infrastructure and water found on the site, Castro said.
“It turned into an argument of you can come, but you need to build the store smaller,” she said. “They didn’t want to build a smaller store.”
Walmart removed its plans in 2008 after commissioners sided with Smart Growth to uphold stream buffers, which would have reduced the maximum size of the store.
Castro said she hadn’t seen the plans for the Mathis Airport Parkway store, but added that the group plans to monitor the process to allow the community to be informed and somehow involved in the design.
“Smart Growth welcomes new businesses here, especially in this part of the county,” she said. “Coming on [Highway] 141, we hope that as good neighbors that they adhere to the standards of the Peachtree Parkway overlay.”
The overlay, which was created in 2007, sets aesthetic requirements for developers along the state route in Forsyth.
The district’s commissioner, Brian Tam, said it was his understanding the developer “will have to comply with the architectural, landscape and building exterior standards of the Peachtree Parkway overlay.”
Tam, who was on the commission at the time of Walmart’s first request for the area, initiated the rezoning of the current 24 acres in question as a result of meetings with concerned residents.
“This was the location that the community supported back in 2006,” Tam said Friday. “[Walmart] has looked hard at this location before.”
The rezoning of that site included a transitionary property of multi-family housing between the planned retailer and the nearby Avington subdivision.
That property has not been developed, though Tam noted it has since been rezoned for a smaller residential density.
He said he has not spoken with Walmart officials lately, so he could not address their plans for moving forward with the development.
Officials from Walmart did not return a request for comment.
The site development plans show entrances to the store from Peachtree and Mathis Airport parkways.
The lot would include three outparcels and 791 parking spaces, all of which were shown between the store and Peachtree Parkway.
Brown said that part of the plan doesn’t conform to one requirement of the overlay, which sets a maximum of 60 percent of parking on the store’s front.
In this case, he said a pre-existing detention pond to the side of the store could prevent that requirement from being met.
According to Brown, those decisions will be made by county staff in reviewing the application.
No public meetings or input are required for the permit, since those were addressed during the zoning of the property, he said.
The plans are available for public review in the department’s office at the county administration building.