Orange County

Will Wegmans and its new traffic plan get Chapel Hill’s approval Wednesday?

The Town Council could decide Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, whether to allow a Wegmans Food Market to be built on the Performance AutoMall site near the Durham County line in Chapel Hill.
The Town Council could decide Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, whether to allow a Wegmans Food Market to be built on the Performance AutoMall site near the Durham County line in Chapel Hill. Submitted

A revised plan for Wegmans Food Market could give drivers on U.S. 15-501 another way to reach the store, while easing the traffic jams expected on Old Durham Road.

You can learn more about the changes at a public information meeting at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the second-floor training room at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The council will resume a public hearing and could vote Wednesday on the $30 million project near the Orange-Durham county line. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chamber.

The 130,000-square-foot Wegmans Food Market, if approved, would replace the 14.7-acre Performance AutoMall, which is moving to the Southpoint Auto Mall near The Streets at Southpoint mall. The Wegmans store is one of four proposed for Chapel Hill, Cary and Raleigh.

The developer is seeking 750 parking spaces – 87 more than town rules allow.

Chapel Hill and Orange County have offered Wegmans a $4 million incentive if the company creates 185 full-time jobs and 413 part-time jobs over five years and meets annual property and sales-tax revenue goals. The project could bring in over $366,000 in property taxes and up to $1.5 million in sales taxes each year.

However, the traffic that the project would generate has been a lingering concern for council members and residents.

The plan initially included entrances on Old Durham Road, behind the Wegmans site, and along the service road between the site and U.S. 15-501. That plan relied on drivers being able to use the U.S. 15-501 intersection at Eastowne Drive and the service road, but Wegmans could not reach a deal with the neighboring State Employees Credit Union, which owns the former Blue Cross and Blue Shield building.

A new plan, offered at a Sept. 13 public hearing, would have routed all Wegmans traffic onto Old Durham Road, which is already congested and backs up at times. That plan alarmed nearby residents, who feared massive traffic jams and speeding cars cutting through their neighborhoods.

Project officials went back to the drawing board to devise a plan that lets drivers use the service road to reach Wegmans via a new entrance-only driveway on the western end of the property.

The revised plan also includes three full-access driveways on Old Durham Road: just past the Hardee’s, at a new roundabout between Wegmans and its satellite parking lot, and from the satellite parking onto Cooper Street. Delivery trucks would use a driveway behind the store.

A traffic study shows the grocery could generate roughly 10,766 trips – 3,214 more cars than now use the area – when it opens in 2018. Project officials estimated that two-thirds would come from Chapel Hill, passers-by or the surrounding area, while the rest would travel from the east.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation also would require project developers to add turn lanes on Old Durham Road and at its intersection with U.S. 15-501; a longer median blocking cross-traffic at Old Durham Road and Scarlett Drive; and improve the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Eastowne/Lakeview Drive.

The NCDOT determined that a traffic light isn’t needed now at the intersection of Lakeview Drive and Old Durham Road, but the town wants Wegmans to do another traffic study after the store opens and pay $150,000 toward any future traffic upgrades.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

What’s next

A public information meeting about the changes to the Wegmans Food Market plan will be held at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the second-floor training room at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The Town Council will continue a public hearing and could vote Wednesday on the project. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at Town Hall.

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