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The planning commission voted unanimously in favor of a large-scale development to expand the Harps grocery store at Town Center during its meeting on Monday, Oct. 8.

The proposed development includes a 9,606 square-foot addition to the structure, performed by Crafton Tull, and significant changes to the parking area for the grocery store, which sits on a 7.82-acre parcel owned by Cooper Realty Investments Inc.

Chairman Daniel Ellis recused himself from the discussion and abstained from voting because he works for the applicant, Crafton Tull.

The commission voted to approve the request with some conditions, including city council's approval of a request to vacate the right-of-way on Memorial Drive.

Community Development Services director Kevin Gambrill said the small reduction in parking spaces was initially expected to require a variance from the Board of Zoning Adjustments but, because it is only a 10 percent variance, city code allows him to grant that variance administratively -- which he has done.

"Technically we have some setback encroachments," he added.

Current regulations also call for 15 percent of the property to remain green space, he said, but that does not currently exist.

Barry Williams, the landscape architect for the project, said that this is the first phase of a substantial facelift for Town Center East.

"Right now, the plan is obviously to remodel Harps," he said.

In addition to expanding and remodeling the grocery store, Williams said crews will be updating facades for shops on the upper portion of the shopping center, portions of the parking lot will be raised and lowered and the entire parking area will be resurfaced, in addition to changes in the layout.

Crews will also be removing the aggregate sidewalks that currently sit under the facility's awnings.

Williams said he does not expect any change to traffic circulation along Memorial Drive, which runs through the parking lot.

The Towncenter facelift is going to be done in phases, he said, but when the next phases will start is not currently known.

"I'm quite certain that as this moves forward... there's probably going to be some interior work," he said. "The focus right now is just this piece of the puzzle."

The commission also approved a lot split on Spanker Creek Road and a conditional use permit for the Arts and Crafts Festival.

Elaine Reinke, with the festival, pointed out this will be the festival's 50th anniversary.

This year will include a gallery tent and a family tent with activities for kids, she said.

"It's just the best festival there is," she said.

The commission also heard an update on Sunset Drive.

Gambrill explained that city staff met with representatives from the on-site engineering firm, the street department, a geotechnical engineer and Garver -- the city's on-retainer engineering firm -- Friday last week.

"What was discovered is that Sunset Drive, decades ago, was actually built on top of, it isn't parent material under that road, it's fill," he said.

The plan from here, he said, is to bench the road, taking it out altogether and restabilizing the soil under it. The road will be down for multiple months, he said, and it's impossible to say how long exactly.

This will be at the builder's expense, he said.

"It will not come at the cost of the city taxpayer," Gambrill said.

General News on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: Planning commission approves Harps add-on

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