After a controversial decision by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Sherman is poised to become the latest city to host a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store. The Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the site plan for the store at the northwest corner of FM 1417 and Lamberth road in west Sherman. The plan will now face final approval in front of the full City Council, likely next month.
The Neighborhood Market chain of Walmart stores, which are typically about 25 percent the size of a Walmart Supercenter, are designed for quick-trip shoppers and focus more on grocery products, according to the company’s 2014 Annual Report. The company currently maintains 407 such Market stores in the United States, including 50 in Texas. Walmart told investors it plans to add an additional 200 Neighborhood Market stores this year to “significantly accelerate their roll out to complement (the company’s) core supercenter fleet.”
The store faced stiff opposition during the Commission meeting, as dozens of locals packed the chambers to protest various aspects of the facility. Common concerns included trash blowing from the lot, increased traffic in the area and the possibility that the store would operate 24 hours. City staff responded that trash would be the responsibility of the store manager, traffic responsibility was with the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Commission could not specify what hours the business could be open due to zoning restrictions.
Sherman resident Marty Nichols, like most of those who rose to spoke during the meeting, raised a combination of concerns.
“I’m against it; I don’t really want a Walmart there,” said Nichols. “At the end of the day, it’s still a Walmart. It’s very nice, and I like Walmart, … but I just don’t want it in my neighborhood and specifically on my block.”
Fellow neighbor Andrew Bossen said he felt the design of the storefront, which would be all masonry but would reflect the typical light-brown/dark-brown color palate of similar stores, was not up to snuff.
”Although it may meet the (city’s) requirements, I would say, by the new construction in there, it does not meet the current level of buildings in the surrounding area,” said Bossen. “There’s a new standard, in my opinion, in the neighborhood, based on the new construction. And this does not meet the standard.”
The proposed, 41,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market in Sherman would include a service station for fuel as well as a pharmacy, according to the site plan submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission, employing approximately 80 people. As part of Tuesday’s meeting, the sub-set Board of Adjustments approved 168 parking spots for the business in lieu of the ordinance-required 195 — a move Walmart said was in-line with modern standards and Commission members said would increase green space — as well as monument signs on both FM 1417 and Lamberth Road.
Charlie Lambert, whose emotional testimony focused largely on the variances, said he felt that the company was not paying its dues to the community by requesting exceptions.
“I think it’s a really small cost for them to follow the current requirements we have,” said Lambert. “Being a low-cost leader is a great business model, but being a low-cost builder in our city is not in the best interest of our city.”
In the end, commissioners said the company is meeting and, in some cases, exceeding city codes. Commission Chair Don Hicks said the corner lot which Walmart has earmarked for construction was zoned commercial prior to the development of housing in the area, meaning homeowners knew or should have know that future retail development at that location was an inevitability.
“I hear people talking about — they say ‘Walmart’ and there’s this huge vision of a supercenter in everybody’s mind,” said Hicks. “This store is not a huge supercenter; it’s a grocery store. So if it said ‘Albertsons’ or ‘Brookshire’s’ on the side of it instead of Walmart, people automatically have a different perspective of what they’re going to put there. … This is not a huge place compared to supercenters.”
In other business, the Commission heard a request from Fastenal to build a 10,000-square-foot building near the intersection of Baker Road and Frisco Road in east Sherman. The Board of Adjustments approved metal siding and stone wainscoting in lieu of masonry for the building’s sides and rear, and the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the site plan. The building’s lot will be carved out of land owned by VFW Post No. 2772.
Commissioners also approved a request by a home developer to turn three small housing lots into two large lots in Pecan Grove Village. Neighbors expressed concern that the change could lead to multi-family housing, but were reassured by the Commission that was not the case.