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Walmart 255 Feet From Oriental?
The Conceptual Layout and Other Details So Far
September 3, 2013

F
or years, it was an easy laugh to speak of a Walmart coming to Pamlico County, or for even more of a laugh, to Oriental. After all, the County’s population was under 13,000 and Oriental’s was 900. There were only about 2300-2500 people in the 28571 zip code.

But the email that Oriental’s Town Hall sent out to Town Commissioners on August 22 was not a joke:

The Town of Oriental will be welcoming a Wal Mart Express. Described as an ‘abbreviated version’ of the Super Wal Mart, it will be built outside the Town Limits, near Hudson Town and George Streets. It abuts with Town Boundaries at the Broad Street Extension. It will encompass about 5 or 6 lots, and the building itself will be approximately 12,000 square feet. The property that Wal Mart is purchasing is approximately 3 acres. This Wal Mart will house a pharmacy and a gas station as far as we know.

An email sent to TownDock shortly afterward, stated that the Walmart Express may house a pharmacy and gas station.

(Some residents and writers to TownDock.net’s Letters to the Editor have taken issue with the phrasing in that email about “welcoming” the retail giant. The opponents to the Walmart in Oriental the town shouldn’t be welcoming the retail giant whose presence in other small towns caused the small business there to wither. More on the opposition to the Walmart Express near Oriental in an upcoming story.)

TownDock.net has been providing updates to the story since breaking it on August 22. Here is a compilation of what is known about the project so far.

Two Sites Scoped Out In Pamlico County

Walmart has had engineers and others scoping out two sites in Pamlico County. One, as Town Hall noted, would be just outside the Oriental Town limits and could be the site of a Walmart Express – the smallest store in the Walmart fleet at 12,000 square feet.

Highway 55 and Chris Fulcher’s land 255 feet from Oriental’s town limit where Walmart says it is planning a Walmart Express Store. The building in the distance, owned by the corporation, Quality Marine Services, Inc. for which Fulcher’s wife Deborah is the registered agent, is not on land included in the Walmart plans.

Meanwhile, a site on Highway 55 in Grantsboro, across from the Food Lion is being investigated as well. In that case, the store would be the next size up, a Walmart “Neighborhood Market”. It would be in the neighborhood 50,000 to 70,000 square feet.

As of Friday August 30, Pamlico Building Inspector Skip Lee’s office had not received plans for either site.

Walmart Express Experiment

The Walmart Express stores are mainly grocery stores and the format represents an experiment for Walmart. It’s in “a test phase, a pilot phase” spokesman Bill Wertz said in an interview with TownDock.net.

According to trade reports, the Walmart Express stores, the smallest in Walmart’s fleet, are the giant retailer’s response to the success of the Family Dollar and Dollar General stores during the recession. However, independent visits by several Oriental area residents to Walmart Expresses in Snow Hill, Ayden and Princeton, NC confirm that they are primarily grocery stores, some with a pharmacy in one part of store and an aisle or two of non-grocery goods. In this 12,000 square foot incarnation, it appears the Walmart Expresses will not be, a microcosm of the supercenters but would mainly sell groceries and possibly prescription and off-the-shelf drugs.

A Walmart Express store in Arkansas (Photo from Walmart)

Walmart has opened 20 Walmart Expresses in the country since the experiment started two years ago. Most of them – 15 – are in North Carolina. There are three in Arkansas and 2 in Chicago (one of which, close to a bigger Walmart store, closed after a year.)

At 12,000 square feet, the Walmart Express mentioned for Oriental would be significantly smaller than the Walmart Supercenters, which can be upwards of 100,000-200,000 square feet. However, though small by Walmart standards, a 12,000 square foot store in the Oriental area would be larger than any existing retail. The Dollar General is approximately 9,000 square feet. The Town and Country grocery is approximately 8,000 square feet.

Just 255 Feet Outside Oriental

The projected site is not in Oriental but just 255 feet outside the Oriental town limits on Highway 55.

The “conceptual layout” by Bohler Engineering shows the store being positioned on the east side of Hwy 55/Broad Street Extension. This would put it across the street from George Street intersection of Hwy 55 and diagonally across the two lane highway from the Dollar General.

According to Pamlico County GIS maps and information publicly available at the Pamlico Register of Deeds, the land’s owner is Three Seas Legacy, LLC, one of several corporations owned by Oriental businessman Chris Fulcher.

walmart conceptual layout
The “conceptual layout” by Bohler Engineering would have the store positioned on Highway 55. A large portion of land would remain behind it. At bottom of the layout is one of Oriental’s two water towers. At the lower right, a residence at Windward Drive and Gilgo (home to Jim and Barb Barden).

No deed had been transferred as of Friday August 30. (It should be noted that no land has to trade hands; development of the land could happen under a lease to Walmart.)

According to the “conceptual layout” that was given to Town Hall and which Town Hall provided to TownDock.net, the Walmart Express would not occupy the lot with the recently renovated storefront (which decades earlier had been Snooks Gibbs’ grocery.) The Walmart Express property would start just south of that storefront. It would include the lot with the piles of dredging spoil on them.

Walmart Would Pay No Oriental Property Tax But Oriental Would Provide Police Protection

Since this land is outside the town limits of Oriental, Oriental would receive no property tax from Walmart (or the landowner) for that property.

However, the Town – and its taxpayers – would be providing police protection from Oriental’s Police Department. Captain Dwaine Moore says he responds to calls within a one-mile radius of Town under what’s called a Mutual Aid Agreement with the Pamlico County Sheriff’s Department. Moore says that if there were a police call from the Walmart, he would likely be the first law enforcement to arrive.

Site cited for a Walmart Express store 255 feet from the Oriental town line. While getting no property tax the Town would still have to provide police service. This is the view of the site, across Highway 55, from George Street.

Because the land is outside the Town limits, Oriental’s Growth Management Ordinance or GMO does not apply. Among other things, the GMO limits the size of buildings in the commercial (Mixed Use – MU) zones to 8,000 square feet.

Where Will Walmart Get Water From?

If Walmart wanted to be on the Town of Oriental’s water system, it would have to first be annexed in to the town. Mayor Bill Sage confirmed on Thursday August 29 that the Town’s water policy requires annexation for any potential customers of the Town’s water system. Being in the town would require the development of the land to comply with Oriental’s GMO. For Walmart, there are alternatives to tapping in to the Town’s water system: building a pipeline from the site about a quarter mile down Hiway 55 to the county water system’s closest pipes. A second option: drilling a well and using the well water for the store’s needs.

The Bay River Sewer District recently lifted an Oriental-area moratorium on new sewer tap ons, the equivalent of approximately 70 homes. An area resident who checked with Bay River says he was told the Walmart Store would be the equivalent of 3 homes.

Next Stop: Pamlico County Planning Department

For things to go forward, Walmart would have to formally submit plans to The Pamlico Planning Department. In an interview Friday afternoon, Building Inspector Skip Lee said the only contact he has had was with the architects/engineers for the firm developing the plans for Walmart and it was to answer a question. They wanted to know, Lee said, what the wind zone was for the county. (The answer: 130mph, meaning a building should be built to withstand such wind speeds.)

Lee says that he expects that if Walmart does proceed with plans for a store or stores in Pamlico County that they would submit those plans after already checking in and getting permits from state agencies. They include the Division of Water Resources (formerly, Division of Water Quality; renamed by the McCrory administration this year), the NC Department of Transportation. Lee says that engineers would have to “certify the soils.” on the site (which has been used as a dumping ground for spoil from dredging off Oriental’s shore and harbor.)

Once his office receives the permit application to build, Skip Lee says, his office could approve the plans within just 3-4 days.

Highway 55: Is It Wide Enough?

In an interview, Reed Smith, the NC DOT’s district engineer in New Bern says that 2-3 weeks ago, he was contacted by an engineering firm asking about the site on Hwy 55 just outside of Oriental and was shown a general site plan. Smith says he only learned that it was a Walmart store when the news broke in the media.

walmart site fulcher land highway 55
As you drive in to Oriental, having just passed the Dollar General store on your right, the site for the Walmart Express would be on your left. It is just outside the Oriental town limits. The Walmart Express model is primarily a grocery store. It would be less than 700 feet from the Town-n-Country, the existing grocery inside the Oriental town limits.

TownDock.net asked Smith if the addition of a 12,000 square foot Walmart Express — a grocery store — would necessitate widening the two-lane Highway 55 to include a turning lane. While on the phone, he consulted a trip generation calculator. A “2,000 square foot discount store” he said, would generate an estimated 30 turns an hour during peak traffic hours. Half might be left hand turns across traffic and that falls short of the DOT threshold of 25-30 left hand turns per hour necessitating a turn lane. Therefore, he said, it’s unlikely a turn lane would be needed.

As local residents know, the area already features a Dollar General just across the highway. Asked if, with two retail businesses generating left hand turns, the DOT might consider the cumulative impact, Reed Smith said, “It’s hard to say. I don’t know that we have a way to nail that down.”

Employment Figures

Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz says in an email that the store would employ 20 “associates.” The email did not distinguish how many of them would work 40-hour weeks.

TownDock conducted a survey of several businesses likely to see a downward turn on sales should the Walmart Express open just outside the Oriental Town Limits.

Renee Smith, who runs the Town and Country grocery store 693 feet away, says she has 17 employees. Denton’s Pharmacy has two full time employees and 3 part-time. Village Hardware says it has 2 full time and 6 part time employees. (Employment levels at the Oriental mini-mart are not at this time known.)

Those touting the store in Oriental say it would bring jobs. Those opposed say that any gain will be scrubbed when other business cut back or close down altogether.

——-

Email sent by Bill Wertz, Walmart’s Director of Communications on the East Coast on August 27.
Walmart plans to build a new Express store in Oriental, bringing the community everyday low prices in a smaller format store.  The new store, less than a tenth the size of a typical Walmart Supercenter, is designed to make shopping quick and easy for area customers who are looking for affordable prices and find what they need close to home.  The new store will have approximately 20 associates and will offer groceries and general merchandise, including an assortment of fresh produce, dairy and meats, dry goods, consumables, health and beauty aids, over-the-counter medicines and more.

 
 

The Walmart Express format was created in 2011 to offer low prices, convenient shopping, and a small  footprint —an ideal format for urban and rural areas that lack access to larger stores.

 

Express is still a pilot format.  We currently have 20 stores in operation, three in Arkansas, two in Illinois (in Chicago) and the remaining 15 in North Carolina. Our newest Express opened August 21 in Broadway, NC.  I can tell you that the North Carolina stores have been very popular.  Customers seem to appreciate the fact that they can get more grocery items, including fresh produce, than you can find in a typical convenience store.  They also like being able to pick up items that they have ordered at Walmart.com.

Posted Tuesday September 3, 2013 by Melinda Penkava


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