JAMES CITY - A proposed grocery store in Lightfoot received its first public review by county planning officials Wednesday, with concerns focusing primarily on traffic impacts and providing a buffer to a nearby neighborhood. The store is not expected to open until sometime in 2018, pending approvals.
The German grocer Lidl, which is looking to build a nearly 36,000-square foot store off of Richmond Road within three miles of four grocery stores, would be on the site of Smith Memorial Baptist Church.
The company has purchased the land from the church, which is looking at property to relocate its church elsewhere in the county, county planner Lauren White said Wednesday during the meeting of the Planning Commission's Development Review Committee.
“We haven’t received a conceptual plan by the church, but we have received an inquiry on property in James City County,” White said.
A small cemetery on the property would remain undisturbed, according to Jeremy Yee, senior project manager for Kimley-Horn, a North Carolina-based development consulting firm with offices in Newport News and Virginia Beach.
Yee outlined the conceptual plan for the grocery store to the Planning Commission’s Development Review Committee.
The committee members at the meeting – chairman Danny Schmidt, John Wright and Rich Krapf – had questions primarily on buffers between the parking lot and Richmond Road, and the back of the store and the neighborhood behind it. A fourth committee member, Tim O'Connor, was not at the meeting.
Yee said the design for the store looks to provide more green space in the back of the building, where the loading dock for the store would be located, to provide a buffer.
“I want you to be comfortable and supportive of the plan,” Yee said.
Krapf asked about the possibility of moving the footprint slightly to put the store closer to Richmond Road.
Yee said Lidl would need enough room for delivery trucks to get to the back of the store. He said the distance from the loading dock to the closest home is more than 100 feet.
Yee said he and store officials have had a preliminary meeting with the Virginia Department of Transportation about traffic impacts. At that time, he said VDOT expressed “no big concerns,” except the possibility of putting in a traffic signal on Richmond Road in front of the store. With other nearby signals, Yee said VDOT is concerned about the traffic flow.
Hector Baez, a development manager for Lidl, told the committee it would take 26 weeks to build to store once it received approval. The committee is scheduled to review the conceptual plan again at its May 24 meeting. Pending approval by the committee, the Planning Commission would review the store proposal in July.
If approved at that stage, the Board of Supervisors would get an opportunity to review the store plans in August. If the store is approved to build, Lidl officials said it would take about 26 weeks to construct the store.
The review committee considers multi-family developments of at least 10 units not subject to a binding legislatively approved master plan, shopping centers and single buildings or group of buildings with a total floor area of more than 30,000 square feet, according to the county's website.
Four grocery stores are already located within three miles of Lidl — the Harris Teeter off Richmond Road in the Lightfoot Marketplace, Food Lion in Williamsburg Premium Outlets, a Walmart Supercenter in the Cedar Valley Shopping Center off of East Rochambeau Drive and Farm Fresh in Norge.
Other major grocery chains in the greater Williamsburg area include Martin's, Fresh Market and Trader Joe's.
The German grocer has aggressive plans to open stores in the U.S. The discount grocery chain has more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries. Lidl has said it plans to open more than 100 stores on the East Coast within the next year, including 20 stores in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
If approved, the store would be located on two pieces of land at 6495 and 6515 Richmond Road. Smith Memorial Baptist Church is on one of those properties, and the other is vacant property behind Five Brothers Pancake and Steakhouse.
Lidl, according to information on its website, says it looks for locations in established retail locations with a minimum of four acres and 36,000-square feet that can handle at least 180 dedicated car parking spaces. Plans for the proposed store call for a parking lot facing Richmond Road with 177 parking spaces.
The zoning for the two properties Lidl proposes using for its Lightfoot store are general business and designated mixed use, according to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan adopted by James City County.
White wrote in a memo to the review committee that grocery stores are allowed in the general business zone, but a special use permit is needed for commercial buildings with more than 10,000-square feet of floor area.
White said in the memo that Kimley-Horn would not apply for the special use permit until after the committee has reviewed the project and offered its input. That is expected to come May 24, Yee said.
The store would include two public entrances — a primary access at an existing median break and shared access with the Five Brothers restaurant and the America’s Best Value Inn.