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City Commission clears path for West Albany Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market

Development would include new Wal-Mart grocery concept, fueling station

Land near the new West Albany Waffle House restaurant will be the location of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market grocery store and fueling station with approval by the city of Albany. (Herald staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Land near the new West Albany Waffle House restaurant will be the location of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market grocery store and fueling station with approval by the city of Albany. (Herald staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Albany city commissioners laid the infrastructure groundwork Tuesday morning for development of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market grocery store and complementary fueling station at Logan Court and South Westover Boulevard, just off Gillionville Road near the recently built West Albany Waffle House.

Neither city Planning nor Engineering officials would confirm that the property would be used for the new Wal-Mart concept, but three people who have business interests in the region said Tuesday that Polestar Development LLC would begin work on the retail giant’s grocery store/service station development when property owner Bob Brooks is granted a C-5-to-C-2 rezoning request.

That request was approved 7-0 by the Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission at its April 3 meeting but must now be OK’d by the City Commission after an April 22 public hearing.

To pave the way for the rezoning and to greenlight construction, commissioners gave tentative approval to acceptance of right-of-way and drainage easements at the Westover/Gillionville Commercial Subdivision in which the Wal-Mart project will be constructed and then agreed to abandon a portion of the drainage easement that runs through the middle of the proposed construction site. The developer will be required to construct a private drainage system for the subdivision.

“We put safeguards into our documents that protect the city of Albany, the Waffle House and the property owner,” City Engineering Director Bruce Maples said. “One of those safeguards — and this was proposed by the developer — is that they design and construct a private drainage system and put Waffle House on that system. They would be responsible for reaching an agreement with Waffle House.”

Other safeguards agreed to by the developer include: submission of site and grading plans, title opinions on the property listing any liens or objections, preparation of a stormwater maintenance agreement, submission of a legal description of the drainage easement to be abandoned by the city.

Businessman Mike Rogers told The Herald when he opened his second Mike’s Country Store location off U.S. Highway 19 earlier this year that he planned to open a third location in West Albany. Rogers said Tuesday he doesn’t expect the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to impact his plans.

“We’re still looking at a location near there,” he said after Tuesday’s commission meeting. “I think there is enough interest in my market that we’ll still be OK in that region. We’re still in the process; we’re still moving forward.”

The commission also tentatively signed off on a public hearing sought by Albany Transit to discuss raising fixed-rate base fare from $1.25 to $1.50 effective July 1 and subsequent 5 cents-per-year increases for the next four years.

“Our fares are substantially behind those in the region,” City Manager James Taylor said. “We wanted (increases) to have less of an impact on patrons, so we propose gradually raising the fare.”

The commission also agreed on the wording of a model airplane ordinance that will allow flight of non-gas-powered model planes only in Hilsman and Festival parks. Failure to adhere to the ordinance could lead to a written warning on the first offense and subsequent fines of $50 and $250, with loss of flying privileges for a period of 12 months on the third offense.

A lump-sum bid of $64,142 by JVS Associates of Albany for the rehab of Units 10 and 13 of the Broadway Court Apartments was also approved by the commission with funding set to come from the Department of Community and Economic Development’s rental revenues. CED Director Shelena Hawkins said damage to the apartments was caused by water pipes that burst within the walls of the apartments.

Laureen Kelly, who manages the county’s law library, sought and received tentative approval of an increase from $2 per case to the statutory maximum allowable $5 per case that would be used to replenish the libraries law books and periodicals. Kelly said the funding would increase the law library’s budget by an estimated $26,000 per year and help offset an 11 percent-per-year cost increase.

“I think this is a no-brainer,” Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff, an attorney, said. “That extra $3 is the least we can do, especially since none of it would be coming out of the city budget.”

Even though Kelly said judges in the county do not impose the law library fee on defendants who cannot pay court costs, Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard voted against the increase, saying it might impose a hardship on citizens. Howard asked that the increase be limited to $4 per case.

All votes taken at the work session are nonbinding and won’t be final until taken at the commission’s night meeting next Tuesday.