Jeremy Fields, vice president and general manager of Appalachian Design Services, presents the preliminary site plan for the new Food City to the Town of Erwin Planning Commission. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

Quick progress continues to be made in preparation for the new Food City in the Town of Erwin. A preliminary site plan was approved for the supermarket during the Wednesday, July 25, Erwin Planning Commission Meeting.

Food City representatives, including Jeremy Fields, vice president and general manager of Appalachian Design Services, the architectural engineering company for the project, attended the meeting to clarify any questions from town officials. Fields said after speaking with town building inspector Brian Tapp and Erwin Utilities, he believes there will be no issues complying with the town’s regulatory zoning ordinances.

“I think we’ve got everything in line for meeting the regulations,” Fields said.

Erwin City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff asked if there is any part of the site plan that will come before the commission at a later date. Fields said a site lighting plan is still underway and documents related to signage will come from the signage manufacturer.

“We do locate the signs on the site plan, but we do not have the specifications on the signs at this time,” he said. “There are notes on there that the signs are to be per the town ordinance on the signage.”

Tapp said once the site lighting and signage plan is presented to him, he will bring those back before the planning commission for approval.

In discussions on traffic flow for the new store, Fields reported that he spoke to the company’s truck engineer, who expects 30 percent of incoming traffic to go down North Industrial Drive.

“The total maximum load that would do is 63 cars in the peak times … around 5:30-6:30 p.m.,” said Fields.

The main entrance at the intersection of Second Street and North Industrial Drive will be signalized by the town, which Rosenoff said is currently in the planning phase, a requirement of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He added that TDOT has also made a recommendation regarding North Industrial Drive and he is waiting on those comments.

“It’s more I think the exiting out of the Food City or the gas station or the other retail onto North Industrial and down to Second Street … which would be a lot more traffic than normal,” Rosenoff said.

At the suggestion of Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley, Rosenoff said he will gather more information on the possibility of widening part of  North Industrial Drive into three lanes to allow for a separate turning lane. Rosenoff threw out the possibility of allowing entry into Food City from North Industrial Drive, but making all vehicles exit onto Second Street, as opposed to the preliminary plan’s entrance and exit onto both Second Street and North Industrial Drive.

However, as a design rule, Food City traditionally has two entrances and two exits to prevent traffic congestion. Hensley also said that the neighboring traffic from Pal’s restaurant is something that should potentially be factored into the plan.

“I can see we’re going to have to do something, but we’ll attack that later,” said Hensley.

Tapp said he and Food City representatives had discussed the possibility of adding additional signage for traffic control if needed. With the majority of the traffic coming through the signalized intersection, one or two delivery trucks for Food City will come up North Industrial Drive each day and utilize the wider western entrance to the store.

Hensley made a motion to approve the plan, and her motion was seconded by planning commission member Betty Chandler before it unanimously passed.

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In other business, the planning commission also approved an ordinance amending the zoning ordinance for the industrial district to require the use of a buffer strip or screen for any new or expanding uses.

According to the ordinance, a buffer strip is to be made of plant material such as shrubs or trees to provide an obscuring screen. The shrubs or trees are to be spaced no more than five feet apart and will grow to at least five feet in width and six feet in height after one full growing season. Screening will be comprised of a six-foot solid visual barrier fence for all frontage along a public street and visual areas from the street, or adjacent to residential properties. Any other method or screening or buffering must be brought before the planning commission for approval.

Rosenoff said the new ordinance was spurred by continual issues regarding industries with storage yards or storage buildings, which have posed aesthetic concerns for some.

“We’ve had issues back and forth a lot of times over storage and it not being screened, or it being unsightly … it’s nice and neat and not rusted or is it rusted and dilapidated … it’s just a back and forth,” he said. “Whereas this provides some provision for the planning commission. This covers us to at least have some sort of powers to required screening.”

Hensley voiced her approval for the ordinance and the benefits of adopting such standards now rather than later.

“I think it’s a very good idea we have this in place,” she said.

Hensley made a motion to approve the ordinance and recommend it to the Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman. Her motion was seconded by Chandler before it unanimously passed.

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Following the Erwin Planning Commission, the Erwin Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss a variance request regarding an erected and illuminated sign at the Burnout BBQ & Grill, located at 857 Rock Creek Road.

The board had previously granted a variance request for a sign at the property back in June. Tapp said he brought the new variance request back before the board due to regulations prohibiting the use of illuminated signage in a residential district.

“With this being a non-conforming property, I was trying to determine whether or not the sign would fall under the same nonconforming use or not,” Tapp said.

He also stated that the older sign was most likely built prior to the town’s illuminated signage ordinance. After sending letters to receive options from abutting property owners, he stated that he did have one complaint from a neighbor who felt the current sign was sufficient and that the illuminated sign could cause issues and distractions. After reaching out to previous business owners, Tapp said he was unable to find out when the sign was last used.

“To my knowledge, this sign hasn’t been used, based on what they told me, in the last 10 years,” he said.

Hensley made a motion to deny the request due to the concerns of abutting property owners. Her motion was seconded by Chandler before it unanimously passed.