Planning Board hearing on Walmart expansion Jan. 7

43,000-square-foot addition would be $20 million investment

The Rindge Planning Board will be continuing the discussion about Walmart’s $20 million expansion plans during its Jan. 7 meeting.

The meeting is a continuation of the store’s efforts to add a 43,000-square-foot addition, which would house a grocery section and would also make room for a fire lane access way to the back of the building and improved stormwater management.

Walmart initially applied for site plan approval for the expansion of its existing 76,148-square-foot facility on Route 202 in October 2011. According to meeting minutes, the Planning Board discussed the plan in November 2011, but had concerns about wastewater treatment and the design of the new building, which was not in keeping with the “rural character” of Rindge.

Hannaford’s, Walmart’s neighbor in Rindge, has also come forward during past meetings with concerns about stormwater drainage, and what would happen in the case of back-to-back storms.

Since its initial proposal, various Walmart representatives have come to the Planning Board with new ideas, like a more rural-looking storefront, a new wastewater treatment system, and better stormwater drainage.

According to Planning Board Ex-Officio member, Select Board member Roberta Oeser, Walmart had come in to its recent December Planning Board meeting with numerous changes to propose. “They had basically come in with new plans,” Oeser said in a phone interview Monday.

Because of this, Oeser made a motion to continue the hearing to Jan. 7, giving members time to go over Walmart’s new ideas.

The current plans for the expansion eliminate past concerns of wastewater going into the nearby wetlands 500 foot buffer, Oeser said on Monday. “That’s the big thing,” she said.

According to Hannaford’s spokesperson Eric W. Blom, the neighboring grocery store will continue to be involved in the Planning Board’s process as the Walmart site plan is reviewed. “We have raised some concerns related to stormwater runoff and the wastewater process,” Blom said. “We want to make sure that our concerns will be heard.”

Oeser spoke to the grocery store’s ongoing presence in the Walmart discussions. “They’re neighbors and they’re concerned,” she said.

Blom could not say whether a Hannaford’s spokesperson planned to be at the Jan. 7 meeting, and could not comment on what the store’s next steps would be if the Walmart site plan is approved.

Even if Walmart were to win Planning Board approval for expansion, the store still has a process to go through before any construction. According to Oeser, approval of the site plan would only be conditional, as Walmart needs to draw up formal plans for the building’s construction and a new wastewater treatment facility that would need to be reviewed. The store has not had those plans professionally made up, yet, due to cost, Oeser said.

The Jan. 7 meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the town office meeting room. It will follow the Planning Board’s Jan. 6 public hearing of proposed new zoning ordinances, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Rindge Recreation Department building on Wellington Road.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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