After delays due to traffic concern and site remediation, the upcoming Wegmans Food Markets store is still scheduled to open in Chapel Hill in spring 2021.
The application for development was originally approved in 2017 and will be located at 1810 Fordham Blvd., Laura Camera, a spokeswoman for Wegmans, said in a email.
Michael Sudol, a planner for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the store will be 99,000 square feet. He said the Town Council believed it was a better fit and use of land than the previous car dealership there.
“The Town Council saw that it was a good economic development opportunity,” Sudol said.
Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said these delays were due to concerns about traffic and site remediation from the contamination of gasoline and car oil.
John Goddin, a resident of the University Heights neighborhood, which could be affected by the upcoming store, said he fears roads in his neighborhood will become too busy. Goddin said the neighborhood is already heavily used as cut-through roads to avoid traffic.
“It's very dangerous,” Goddin said. “Legion Road Extension and Cooper Street are not designed or equipped to handle the traffic that's on them now, and they definitely are not designed for the cut-through traffic that would increase with Wegmans.”
In order to address this concern, the Town has developed a traffic mitigation plan to keep potential Wegmans traffic on the main roads.
Sudol said this plan includes the implementation of:
- No-through truck signs
- Four-way stop signs
- Wayfinding signs that direct to the store
- An electronic speed display sign
- High-visibility crosswalks
Additionally, Wegmans has plans to construct a satellite parking lot across from the store. Goddin said shoppers would have to cross Old Durham Road, and worries for the safety of pedestrians due to traffic.
Sudol said Old Durham Road is managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the department believes pedestrians can safely cross the road.
Goddin also said he questions the economic negotiations that attracted Wegmans to Chapel Hill.
"The Town of Chapel Hill negotiated in secret with the developers of Wegmans for six months to a year regarding substantial subsidies that the taxpayers of Orange County and Chapel Hill would grant to Wegmans,” Goddin said.
Bassett said this is not the case.
"It is not a subsidy, it is an incentive," Basset said. "It is a performance-based incentive meaning they have to perform before they're eligible to ask for any portion of the incentive."
He said Wegmans could receive performance-based incentives if it meets three performance benchmarks over a five year window. The benchmarks are to increase property valuation, hire at least 285 full-time positions and reach at least $62 million in sales revenue by the end of their first year of operation.
Basset said if the store achieves this, it could gain $4 million in performance-based incentives because of an improved valuation from a tax perspective.
Goddin said in 2016 a lot of people were interested in shopping at Wegmans, but there has been a lot of opposition over the years due to concerns about traffic and its impact on the community.
“The people who live here have been very, very concerned from the beginning,” Goddin said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.