Wal-Mart gets easy first approval

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Wal-Mart officials cleared the first hurdle to constructing a 100,000-square-foot Supercenter without a hint of opposition.

The Craig Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously voted to recommend the Craig City Council approve Wal-Mart Corp.'s plans to subdivide a 23-acre site into six lots. The property being divided is on the south side of U.S. Highway 40, west of TLC CarpetOne.

Two residents attended the meeting -- out of curiosity, they said -- but none spoke.

As questions started to trickle in from commission members, Community Development Director Dave Costa warned them not to get ahead of the process.

"I'm looking at this as only a sketch plan review, that's as far as I can take it," he said.

But, what Costa said was the easiest item on the agenda took more time than the other three items combined.

If history has taught commission members one thing, Chris Nichols said, it is to double check the numbers on traffic studies. He cited Kmart as an example. Kmart's traffic study indicated that the impact to Victory Way traffic would be negligible. Since then, the city expanded Industrial Avenue, which runs behind Kmart, to divert some Victory Way traffic.

"I don't want to see where taxpayers are paying to fund an alternative means of access," Nichols said.

An engineer and an attorney representing Wal-Mart attended the meeting. In response to Nichols' concerns they said they'd evaluate whether a third access point was needed.

The current plans show primary access to the store from U.S. Highway 40 and an alternative route via Fourth Avenue West, which currently ends at Hi-Performance Car Wash.

The potential exists to build a street that connects to Fourth Street on the west, eventually linking to Colorado Highway 13.

Costa said officials would have to evaluate the impact to residents to the west.

Nichols also asked Wal-Mart representatives to look at pedestrian circulation -- not only from the residential areas behind the proposed store, but also among the six lots being created.

Wal-Mart's plan calls for the store and its parking lot to sit on the south 17.5 acres of the lot. A small lot -- 0.65 of an acre -- will be created on the east side of the property and four lots ranging in size from 0.68 of an acre to 1.46 acres will be located at the north side of the lot along U.S. 40.

Nichols was concerned about how pedestrians would maneuver between the lots.

"These are all good points, but I don't think we ought to get too far ahead of our process," Costa said. "Right now we're just subdividing based on a sketch plan."

Wal-Mart's traffic study has been submitted to the Colorado Department of Transportation along with applications for two permits -- the first to put a stoplight on U.S. 40 and the second for a "change of use" permit for Fourth Avenue West to increase its use and connect it to Wal-Mart's proposed parking lot.

"You guys did your homework, and our planning director did his homework, and it's pretty much all laid out," Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Jim Meineke said.

The Craig City Council will consider the subdivision request at its Sept. 27 meeting.

Wal-Mart must still undergo the lengthy process of site-development approval, which includes review of proposed drainage, parking, landscaping, access and sidewalks.

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