Vote tabled on Bluffton Walmart Neighborhood Market shopping center

This rendering shows the Walmart Neighborhood Market planned for the shopping center at the intersection of S.C. 170 and Bluffton Parkway.
This rendering shows the Walmart Neighborhood Market planned for the shopping center at the intersection of S.C. 170 and Bluffton Parkway. RHA Architects

A plan to construct a Bluffton shopping center featuring a Walmart anchor won't move forward for at least three more weeks.

The town Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to table a request to approve a certificate of appropriateness for a proposed shopping center anchored by Walmart Neighborhood Market and Pharmacy. The development is planned for the intersection of Bluffton Parkway and S.C. 170.

Members of the commission felt changes related to the center's architecture, lighting and landscaping needed to be addressed before signing off on the plan. The project is part of the Buckwalter planned-unit development and must conform to specific design standards.

The plan currently calls for a 43,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market, in addition to a Walmart gas station, convenience mart and two retail outparcels.

Staff members said they felt the buildings' architecture needed to reflect Lowcountry standards better, in addition to being more consistent throughout the development.

Project manager Erin Schumacher and other commission members recommended the design incorporate native materials, in addition to "iconic Lowcountry features" such as porches, trellises and pitched roofs on the smaller buildings in the development.

"There are some things we're going to have to do to get our designs more in sync with the interpretation of what the Lowcountry is," said Gary McCeamy, design principal at Bergmann Associates.

Staff indicated the project should include more evergreen live oak trees instead of proposed deciduous trees. The board also said the proposed lighting does not meet requirements for the Beaufort County Zoning and Development Standards Ordinance. McCeamy said LED lighting is being considered for the center.

"LED lighting falls within the realm of sustainability, which is what we're aiming for," he said. Emphasis on sustainable design is part of the project narrative.

McCeamy addressed problems related to connectivity within the center, indicating a sidewalk would be constructed from the outparcels in addition to a proposed boardwalk through the site's wetland buffer between the buildings.

McCeamy and his partners are expected to submit a revised plan before the next Planning Commission's meeting Nov. 18.

"We were hoping to get our permits for sure in November to go ahead and close," said Art Waaland, a partner in the development. "The key is for us to get this started and out of the ground" so the Walmart Neighborhood Market can stay on track to open in 2016.

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