Rock Hill Council nixes plans for Walmart on Celanese

Posted January 28, 2014 1:07 am | Filed under Featured, Local News

walmart-marketEfforts by Walmart Stores, Inc. to grow its footprint in Rock Hill are now one size smaller.

Monday night, Rock Hill City Council formally shelved the retail giant’s plan to build a 40,000 square foot ‘Neighborhood Store’ on Celenase Road at Ebinport Road.

Walmart, through Atlanta-based developer Halpern Enterprises, Inc., wanted to turn approximately 14 acres of wooded area between the Swan Meadows neighborhood and Celanese into a shopping center. Walmart would have been the center’s anchor tenant, while additional smaller stores would flank the site with a gas station.

From the start — last fall — neighbors in Swan Meadows protested the center, citing noise, security and light pollution. Following two affirmative votes through the city’s Planning Commission, Walmart and Halpern delivered what they thought to be was a compromise.

That included retaining additional trees and shrubs, building a six-foot-tall solid wood fence between existing brush and a new retaining wall. Two retention ponds were planned to handle stormwater runoff.

But the crux of the plan — a traffic signal at Ebinport and Celenase — turned out to be the death of the project Monday.

Before Monday night, little attention was paid to the affect of additional traffic along Celanese Road. Proponents previously inferred Celanese could handle the additional volume.

Councilman Kevin Sutton disagreed.

“The taxpayers have spent millions of dollars to get Celanese where it is,” Sutton said, referring to the county-wide penny sales tax first approved in 1997 to widen Celanese Road. ”

Walmart officials present Monday indicated to council they were unwilling to budge on the traffic light. Congestion issues surrounding that traffic signal were brought to light Friday at a meeting of the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study.

“We want to be open to development. This is a commercial area on Celanese. But I don’t see any remedy for the traffic considerations,” Pender said.

Steve West, vice president of development for Halpern Enterprises, later said he was caught off guard by council’s decision.

“We wanted to be part of the city’s vision for what would be a good plan there,” West said. “We never considered this would be the outcome.”

West, visibly upset following the meeting, wasn’t sure how he would move forward.

“It looked like… the specifics of our project didn’t matter one way or the other,” he said.

Halpern Enterprises owns one other shopping center in Rock Hill — where the Newport Walmart is now located. The company has some properties in South Carolina but mostly works in Georgia.

Plans for two other 40,000 square-foot Walmart sotres remain in the works in Rock Hill: One on Cherry Road near the Winthrop Farm and another on S.C. 5 near Northwestern High School.

The company also plans on building a new Super Center — which would be Rock Hill’s third store of its kind — on Mount Holly Road at S.C. 901.