New plans for Walmart to be considered Dec. 1 | RecordCourier.com

New plans for Walmart to be considered Dec. 1

by Scott Neuffer

After three months of waiting, Gardnerville town staff is recommending approval of new plans for a proposed Walmart Supercenter in south Gardnerville, which will be reviewed 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the town office, 1407 Highway 395.

“It’s a world of difference from what was here in September,” Town Manager Jim Park said on Tuesday. “I really anticipate this will be a strict business meeting where we’ll consider the design and how it complies and fits in with the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan. It’s not a hearing on one establishment’s practices versus another’s.”

Critics have argued the 152,495-square-foot superstore is incompatible with the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan. The 226-acre development was approved in 2004 and includes more than 1,000 residential units and up to 100 acres of commercial zoning, including the 24-acre Walmart site. Guidelines for the plan call for village-like, pedestrian-friendly commercial development compatible with Gardnerville’s historic downtown.

The new plans for Walmart meet the intent of the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan, Park said.

“It complies absolutely,” Park said. “They (developers) have worked hard the last 90 days with everyone, and they’ve come up with this cooperatively. They should be commended.”

New conceptual designs for The Marketplace at Virginia Ranch show 11 separate commercial buildings clustered around the front and west sides of the store, acting as a buffer between Walmart and Highway 395. Ranging in size from 6,500 square feet to 16,600 square feet, the buildings, along with Walmart, put the total commercial square footage of the 24-acre site around 267,216 square feet.

Park pointed out increased landscape buffers, seeding areas, plazas, pedestrian connectors, pergolas and other proposed amenities that make The Marketplace more village-like and pedestrian-friendly, as called for in the specific plan.

The Walmart building itself, he said, has gained an increased cornice and more articulated facades, and will share common building materials with the rest of the development, similar to the Clear Creek Plaza in north Douglas County.

“It’s really not a huge, tall building; it’s shorter than the old Walmart design,” Park said. “It’s been mitigated holistically. The entire planned development overlay now fits together, and I can say comfortably that it complies.”

Parking for the development also complies with the specific plan, Park said. Spaces are centrally located, enclosed behind the buildings and not placed along the highway, he said. A roundabout has been proposed for the intersection of a new street, Grant Drive, and the future Muller Parkway, as well has a new traffic signal at Grant Drive and Highway 395.

Park said an agreement has been reached between developers and Les Schwab Tires over issues of access.

“I was told that an agreement has been reached in principle,” Park said. “The parcel (Les Schwab) will have shared access on Charlotte Way and back out to Grant.”

Keith Ruben of RO Anderson Engineering, representing property owner Sierra Nevada SW Enterprises, said the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan doesn’t prohibit a Walmart from being built.

“You have to look at the context and how everything fits together, and I think it looks great,” he said. “I’m a free-market kind of person. The reality is that if people didn’t want to shop at Walmart, it wouldn’t be here. People vote with their feet.”

However, opponents of the project find fault with the development process.

“The proposed Walmart Supercenter can only be viewed as a major amendment to the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan,” Gardnerville resident Linda Kleiner wrote in a letter to the town board and Douglas County Community Development department. “Therefore, it should be reviewed by the planning commission and county commissioners with a full public review and comment. This issue is too important to Douglas County to be left to the sole discretion of the community development director.

“According to the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan, ‘The focus and emphasis driving the Development Plan for the Virginia Ranch was architectural motif and integration with the town. These elements form the backbone of a distinct community, which creates a distinct sense of place.’ There is nothing ‘distinct’ about Walmart.”

Gardnerville’s meeting will serve in an advisory capacity to Douglas County Community Development, which has until Dec. 11 to make a final decision regarding the proposed design.