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Plans for new Walmart supercenter south of Hagerstown moving forward

July 13, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • This cornfield just south of The Sleep Inn and The Cracker Barrel on the west side of Sharpsburg Pike near Hagerstown is the proposed site of a new Walmart.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Preliminary site plans for a new Walmart supercenter off Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65) south of Hagerstown are moving forward, but a timeline for final approval still is unknown, a county planning official said Friday.

Jennifer M. Smith, director of Washington County’s Division of Plan Review and Permitting, said Walmart’s preliminary plans received conditional approval from the county Planning Commission on July 1.

“This is the preliminary plat that lays out what the final plat will look like,” Smith said.

Smith said the planning commission’s approval was contingent upon 10 staff recommendations that must be addressed before the submission of final plans.

Staff comments contained in the planning commission’s agenda materials address requirements for forest conservation, buffer zones and property setbacks, as well as needed demolition and public sewer upgrades.

Several provisions still must be approved by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals, Smith said.

With its location along Md. 65, a state road, and near Interstate 70, which is a federally controlled highway, the project also needs to be approved by the state and federal highway administrations before the county can approve final plans, Smith said.

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“We’re all kind of in limbo,” she said when asked if she had an approximate timeline for those approvals.

Walmart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said the company hopes to secure final approvals and start construction by the end of 2013 or early 2014.

“We look forward to providing customers in the Washington County area with convenient shopping options that include both affordable food and a wide assortment of general merchandise,” she said Friday in an email. “Our store will help create approximately 300 new jobs, bring economic growth to the area and generate tax revenue for the county.”

Once construction begins, it generally takes about a year to complete, Henneberg said.

Preliminary plan

Walmart’s submitted site plans call for a 155,405-square-foot supercenter store, with associated parking, stormwater management, public and private streets and other site amenities, to be built on about 22 acres of Arnett Farms land on the west side of Sharpsburg Pike.

The total area of the three-lot commercial subdivision there will be nearly 55 acres, located behind a row of homes just south of the Cracker Barrel and Waffle House restaurants, according to plans.

The other two lots, one to the north and the other to the south, will be mass-graded pad sites for further commercial development, site plans show.

A residential structure to the south of the proposed Walmart will require demolition, and final approval for the project cannot be given until demolition work is completed, according to staff comments on July 1.

Two segments of a new public road will be built, providing a pair of access points to the development, according to the site plan. The proposed Arnett Drive will be accessible from Colonel H.K. Douglas Drive and Sharpsburg Pike, the latter directly across from Poffenberger Road.

Four other private roads — Supercenter, Bentonville, Spark and Wal-Mart drives — will be built to access the new store’s parking lots with 670 total spaces. Wal-Mart Drive will intersect directly with Colonel H.K. Douglas Drive.

Smith said the developer will build both sections of Arnett Drive, which eventually will be turned over to the county.

As additional development occurs on the lots adjacent to the proposed Walmart, the two pieces of Arnett Drive — just two lanes to start — will be extended to create a complete road that runs behind the supercenter, eventually connecting Colonel H.K. Douglas Drive and Sharpsburg Pike, she said.

“When future development happens, that road will become wider,” Smith said. “It depends on what goes in next, how big it is, how many vehicle trips that business would generate.”

Smith said future plans call for a roundabout to be constructed south of the proposed Walmart, where the two pieces of Arnett Drive intersect. That will allow a connector road to be extended to the south to connect with Rench Road.

Forest mitigation

One of the county requirements addressed July 1 is a mitigation plan for forest conservation of 7.41 acres of the 55-acre property.

But Walmart’s proposal requests it be allowed to pay a fee of $32,264.89 rather than plant the necessary trees to satisfy the requirement.

Bohler Engineering of Towson, Md., Walmart’s engineer for the project, submitted a letter dated June 17 to request the fee-in-lieu approach, saying that afforestation efforts should be placed on “environmentally sensitive areas for maximum environmental benefit.”

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