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Dardenne Prairie aldermen approve permit, plans for Walmart Neighborhood Market

A rendering of a Walmart proposed for Hilton Head Island that will serve as a model for one expected to be built in Dardenne Prairie.

A much delayed and once canceled Walmart Neighborhood Market and gas station proposed in Dardenne Prairie are closer to reality with the approval of a conditional use permit and site plan for the facility.

The city’s Board of Aldermen approved both bills at its March 15 regular board meeting. The application seeks a change from the site’s present C-2 commercial zoning to C-2 planned unit development with conditional uses. The proposed development involves 6.25 acres of a 15.79-acre property north of Feise Road, near its intersection with Bryan Road.

The 15.79 acres is divided into five parcels and is part of 86.5 acres, known as the Bopp tract, owned by Cora Bopp Family Limited Partnership. Walmart is expected to buy two of the parcels with city approvals, which are expected to be forthcoming.

The project will move to its design phase now, with construction contracts expected to be awarded in November or December, Mayor David Zucker said last week. Construction is expected to take nine months.

Residents at a public hearing before the board vote didn’t speak in opposition to the market, but asked questions about stormwater management and voiced concerns about underground gas tanks and traffic.

The new applications surprised city officials because Walmart officials had told the city last July 19 that they were dropping plans to build a similar nearly 50,000-square-foot grocery store and gas station on the 15.79-acre property.

Walmart’s earlier pullout came after months of review and discussion regarding the development of the property and market. The pullout came on the eve of a final decision on a conditional use permit and site plan for the development that were expected to go before the city’s board at its July 20 meeting. The city’s planning and zoning commission had recommended approval of the permit and site plan. Aldermen already approved a planned unit development [PUD] request on the tract on July 6.

Zucker said Walmart’s new proposal, forwarded to the city in January, reduced the market about 6,000 square feet, eliminated 20 parking spaces and increased the green space around its parking lot. The outside of the market will have a different appearance than the standard exterior look of other markets. City officials last year objected to the standard “industrial box” of the original design of the store and insisted on an upgraded design.

The new design is based on a market in Bluffton, South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, proposed last year by a city aldermen, he said.

The market is less than half the size of a Walmart Supercenter and is limited to groceries and related products. It will have a pharmacy and will take grocery orders online for delivery to customers’ vehicles at a drive-through area.

The store would be the third Walmart Neighborhood Market to open in the county – two others are open in St. Peters.

The new store also will provide more sales tax revenue, which provides a large share of city funding. Zucker said a city consultant suggested that a grocery store equivalent in size to the Walmart Market could generate as much as $300,000 annually in sales tax revenue.

Zucker said he was baffled by Walmart’s decision last summer.

“The only explanation from them was that on reflection it was too expensive,” he said in an interview last July. He said based on the city’s own economic market assessment some months ago there was enough business within a five-mile radius of the site to support three full-sized grocery stores. “So one in that location would do a land office business,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zucker said he also expects the Bopp Partnership to submit a new area development plan for its property.

“That area plan will more likely than not feature less commercial and more residential,” Zucker said earlier this year. “I haven’t seen it, and don’t know when I will see it, but I think they recognize that the original concept with over 770,000 square feet [of commercial development] – that’s not happening.”

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