Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Central El Paso Walmart Hinges on Council Vote (Updated)

City to Hear Appeal this Week

Update: City Council voted 5-3 to postpone the item for two weeks. The City will have a new Mayor and two or three new council members at that meeting.

Original Story:
City Council officials will vote this week whether or not to approve a Walmart Neighborhood Market location in central El Paso. The rezoning application is an appeal by the retailer after last month’s denial by the City Plan Commission (CPC).

Walmart is hoping to build a 35,500 square foot store at the corner of Chelsea Street and Montana Avenue. Several residential homes on Cardon Street face the properties that could hold the grocery store on the site’s western edge. A large empty lot, an animal clinic, a single family home, and a Chico’s Tacos location currently make up the plot of land on which the Walmart would sit. Trowbridge Drive runs behind the site.
Several people have written letters and made phone calls both in favor of and against the rezoning application. Officials will also be presented with two petitions at the City Council meeting signed by area residents, one supporting the development, and one against it.

Walmart first sought the rezoning application at the CPC’s April 18, 2013 meeting. Commissioners postponed a vote on the rezoning application for a total of four weeks so that Walmart could make changes to the site plan. Officials sited traffic concerns and building a high density store on such a narrow lot adjacent to single family homes as issues.

The retailer changed its rezoning request from Planned Commercial District to General Mixed Use which would allow additional buildings to be constructed in the future along Montana Avenue. No changes were made, however, to the store’s location on the lot nor to the parking lot entrance on Montana Avenue, both details that City planners hoped would be changed. Still the changes were enough to receive a stamp of approval from the Planning Division, which makes recommendations to the CPC and City Council. The CPC voted to deny the application at its May 16, 2013 meeting, paving the way for an appeal to City Council.

The appeal will be heard at the June 18, 2013 City Council meeting. If approved, Walmart officials hope to have the store completed by the end of 2014, according to the Master Zoning Plan Report prepared by Dunaway Associates of Fort Worth.