8/127/21: PLANNING BOARD RECOMMENDS CONDITIONAL APPROVAL OF MARKETPLACE PROJECT; Discussion on Revised Sign Ordinance Postponed.

The Marketplace at Southern Shores currently has 16 tenants and 16 vacancies. Barrier Island Bagels has closed.

The Town Planning Board yesterday unanimously recommended conditional approval of Aston Properties’ revised site plan application to redevelop the Marketplace shopping center by constructing a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls department store and an adjacent 6,000-square-foot retail space in place of a building wing that would be demolished.

Several of the conditions imposed by the Board—which it is recommending to the Town Council that Aston meet before the Charlotte developer applies for a building permit—address stormwater management, inasmuch as the proposed construction would add about 10,000 square feet to the shopping center’s ground coverage.  

As The Beacon first reported 7/20/21, Aston’s proposal would demolish 19,775 square feet of existing shops to the west of CVS/pharmacy, replacing them with a new junior-box Marshalls and with an as-yet-to-be-identified 6,000-square-foot store, and would “reconfigure” about two acres of existing parking lot.

During a July 19 preliminary review of the site plan, the Planning Board expressed considerable concern about stormwater infiltration and drainage into a canal behind the Marketplace, which also borders residences on Palmetto Lane. Among the modifications that Aston submitted with its revised site plan was the use of permeable pavers in the parking lot to improve infiltration.

Permeable pavers are sections of porous pavement that allow rainwater to pass through them to be absorbed (infiltrated) by the ground underneath. Aston proposes creating 150 new parking spaces, 102 of which would have permeable pavers.

The Planning Board, led by member Ed Lawler, questioned Aston’s engineer, Kimberly D. Hamby of the Timmons Group in Elizabeth City, extensively about stormwater management and the efficiency of the current system in effect at the Marketplace.

Aston is not proposing a new stormwater-runoff treatment plan.

Ms. Hamby advised the Board that “There is no way for water from the parking lot to go straight out to the canal.” She also said that all water that strikes the 28,000 square feet of pavers that will be installed will infiltrate the ground.

Town Engineer Joe Anlauf informed the Board that the stormwater management system installed at the Marketplace site around 1985—including a filtration/drainage area behind Coastal Rehab that would bear the most impact from the redevelopment—was “forward-thinking” and should continue to perform well “provided everything is intact.”

Mr. Anlauf explained that there are two perforated pipes with filters on them in this basin site. (And that is as far as we will go with the engineering.)

According to conditions that Planning Director/Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett suggested and the Planning Board approved, Aston must secure the following approvals before it applies to the Town for a building permit:    

  1. A soil erosion sedimentation control plan permit for land disturbance over one acre from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ);
  2. A stormwater management permit from the NCDEQ;
  3. Wastewater approval by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services;
  4. Review and approval of potable water distribution system modifications or extensions from the Dare County Water Dept., which has already tentatively approved them.

The Planning Board added a fifth condition that Mr. Anlauf inspect in person, with an Aston representative, the current Marketplace stormwater system for any “glaring deficiencies,” as member Tony DiBernardo said in framing the condition, and, if necessary, produce a “punch list” of items that need addressing.

Mr. Anlauf said he was familiar with the stormwater basin adjacent to Juniper Trail, in front of the Farm Bureau’s parking lot, but not with the drainage area behind Coastal Rehab.

67 PERCENT MAXIMUM LOT COVERAGE

In addition to these five conditions, Aston must reduce its proposed lot coverage to 67 percent, in order to conform to Town ordinance.

In his report last evening, Mr. Haskett said that Aston’s current proposed lot coverage is 67.1 percent, which Ms. Hamby said she did not know.

Thanks to a zoning text amendment (ZTA) enacted by the Town Council (3-2) in 2016 when Aston sought a conditional use permit (CUP) to redevelop and expand the Marketplace with two drive-through businesses, the maximum lot coverage in Southern Shores’ general commercial district increased from 60 percent to 67 percent for “group developments” that “incorporate the use of permeable pavement . . . in excess of 5 percent of the total lot coverage.”  

Five years ago Aston proposed relocating and rebuilding Starbucks and CVS with drive-through lanes and expanding upon and improving the appearance of the other retail and restaurant spaces at the shopping center.

According to its 2016 site plans, Aston was going to build a 7,210-square-foot four-tenant building, with a drive-through Starbucks, on Hwy. 158 between the Wells Fargo Bank and the main Marketplace entrance, and an expanded 13,225-square-foot CVS with a drive-through at the west end of the shopping center where Starbucks currently is.

Neither the Town Council nor the Town Manager ever made clear to the public what stopped Aston from going forward with this redevelopment, but The Beacon did hear that a wastewater problem thwarted it. Aston had a two-year “vested right” in its CUP. 

The revision to Town Code sec. 36-207 that permitted maximum lot coverage to go as high as 67 percent was actually a compromise. (See Code sec. 36-207(d)(5)(b).) Aston had introduced a ZTA bumping up the maximum commercial lot coverage from 60 percent to 70 percent.

For the developer to avail itself of the 67 percent maximum, it must show that at least 5 percent of the overall property is covered with permeable pavement. As we understand it, Aston will have to determine the percent of permeability provided by its paver product in order to do this.

At the July 19 Planning Board meeting, Ms. Partee projected a tentative opening date for the Marshalls store of spring 2023.

GROVE OF TREES TO BE DESTROYED

We end this report about the Planning Board’s consideration and recommendation of Aston’s revised site plan application by thanking Mr. Lawler for his argument in favor of preserving the lush grove of trees in the Marketplace parking lot located in front of the planned Marshalls site.

Mr. Lawler called the destruction of the 10 mature trees in this park-like setting “a heck of a sacrifice” and asked Ms. Hamby and L. Karen Partee, Aston’s vice president of construction and development, to reconfigure accessibility to the new stores. He also pointed out that the trees assist with stormwater absorption.

Ms. Partee replied that Marshalls would not have been interested in the Marketplace site if the trees were to remain.

Aston plans to do new landscaping, with clusters of new trees in islands near Hwy. 158, Ms. Hamby pointed out.

Mr. Lawler aptly captured the appeal of the grove when he said it “gives you some relief from the ugliness and the monotony of the parking lot.”

Not to mention the hollowness of a shopping center that is 50 percent vacant.

Said Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward: The grove is “an oasis in the middle of a pavement desert.”

UPDATE ON THE PROPOSED SIGN ORDINANCE, ZTA 21-08

The Planning Board tabled until its September meeting a detailed discussion of a new Town Code sign ordinance. ZTA 21-08 is currently a work in progress.

The text of the ZTA that the Board considered yesterday was substantially different from the one we previewed 8/14/21. The Board did not receive the new version until a few hours before its meeting.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/17/21

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