Wal-Mart gains approval to expand in Rio Grande

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Store could be a “Supercenter” by year’s end

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – In a marathon meeting of the Middle Township Planning Board on Thursday, April 24, Wal-Mart’s expansion in Rio Grande was approved in a unanimous vote, just before midnight, a planning board member said.

“At 11 p.m., our legal time for ending the meeting, we had to have a vote to go later into the evening,” said Dan Lockwood, a member of the planning board who also serves on Township Committee. “We were into closing comments for the applicant, and we were close enough to have the vote.”

The meeting stretched on until 11:45 p.m. before the final vote.

Thursday’s approval means that Wal-Mart in Rio Grande will add about 40,000 square feet to its footprint, making it “Supercenter.”

Bill Wertz, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the current store is about 140,000 square feet. When finished, Wertz said, the Supercenter will cover about 20 acres and include a grocery section.

Wal-Mart officials projected in March that if the expansion was approved, construction could be completed by the end of the year.

According to Wal-Mart's engineering report, a portion of the expansion will be within retail stores north of the existing Wal-Mart building. The remainder is slated as new construction.

At previous planning board meetings, Wal-Mart sought several variances from the board for the project, including size, type and number of store signs and the size of its front-yard setback.

The main sticking point, however, was the number of parking spaces the store would provide.

Given the proposed size of the expanded store, zoning laws would require 1,004 spaces. Wal-Mart currently has 836 parking spaces and has proposed adding 28 to accommodate the expansion.

“The application didn’t see any variances that were significantly different than they already had,” Lockwood said. “None of the variances other than parking.”

Lockwood said that studies show that Wal-Mart does not use all of its parking lot.

“They’re still short, and they got some waivers to get some more parking,” he said. “But they aren’t using the full parking lot as it exists now.”

The board noted, however, that the population of southern New Jersey swells during the summer, as tourists flock to the shore, and construction is planned during that busy season.

 “Wal-Mart did agree to working closely with the township engineer with its phasing project and take public safety into account,” Lockwood said. “They will temporarily lose some parking spaces during construction, but phasing the project will minimize the impact on the parking lot.”

Lockwood also said that Wal-Mart agreed to investigate a pedestrian walkway between the Supercenter and the nearby Lowe’s. “We don’t know if it would be concrete or stripes,” Lockwood said. “But it’s an area of conversation.”

Contact David Benson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 


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