Planners approve site for new retail center in La Plata
Baldus owners to build on old True Value Hardware plot
To continue working toward the Town of La Plata’s goal of becoming a walkable, sustainable community, the owners of The Baldus Centre plan to add a retail center to increase value to the community. The new building will be developed on a grassy rectangle in the
center of the site that was once True Value Hardware store, destroyed in the 2002 tornado that struck La Plata.
On Nov. 28, Senior Planner Jeanine Harrington presented the Baldus Retail Center site plan to the Town of La Plata Planning Commission, along with James Erdman, design consultant from Ben Dyer and Associates, who represented the applicant owner, Jake Baldus Grier of Baldus Real Estate Inc.
The town staff recom- mended approval of the Baldus Retail Center site plan, subject to the condi- tion of stormwater management approval.
“The landscaping plan is in compliance with the code,” Harrington said. “They will do a good job of landscaping around the site. Parking was a concern on the site. They have an existing shared parking permit and we will be updating that in regards to this plan. The site requires 163 park- ing spaces in total, so we broke it down by the three buildings. Since they are taking all of the parking on site, they are planning on taking on the top lot that is in [the] same ownership.”
The applicant submitted an application for approv- al of a one-story, 13,864 square foot retail center, including a 3,291 square foot grocery store; 9,468 square foot medical office and a 1,105 square foot restaurant — a total of 1.69 acres of adjacent land use. The subject property is located between the ex- isting Baldus office building located on Charles Street and the Burger King on Crain Highway.
At the La Plata Design Review Board meeting on May 18, the board approved the proposed site’s layout and archi- tectural design with the following conditions: the loading area should be identified with striping; signs need to be provided to direct traffic; a rear facade treatment should be added to mimic the look of the front elevation by possibly adding faux storefronts. The board ex- pressed concerns about the existing bank drivethrough, and requested that a stop bar and “do not enter” signage should be added.
Harrington said the applicant has addressed all of these concerns with the revised site development
The applicant also proposed providing stairs to the rear parking lot to provide a connection to the rear parking area as well as a connection to the existing Burger King restaurant, utilizing the existing paved area on the parcel just east of the site. A crosswalk from the proposed retail building to the fast food restaurant, an inside trash area and landscaping in the parking lot were also proposed by Erdman. However, 25 of the 163 parking spaces were not shown on the presented site plan.
The planning commission was given an opportunity to address some of its major concerns with the site plan revisions such as walk patterns, curbs and parking.
“I would like to see the 25 spots as part of this development,” said James Breitinger, planning commission member. “The way it is presented now, it’s like an adjunct off to the side. If those 25 spots, regardless if they are there and their usage at given times of the day are part of this development, and there are 163 parking spaces required to support this development.”
Breitinger also requested some type of pedestrian access from that parking lot to the crossway leading to the center.
Michael Gahan expressed concerns about people parking in the upper end of the retail center and walking between the parking areas to get to the actual building.
“I have some concern about safety there and about entrances if people are parking that much further away,” Gahan said. “If people are parking in that upper east lot, you ultimately want to find a walkway there and the walkway would lead them to the front of the building.”
Erdman said at this time the expectation is that the upper end parking area will not be utilized as much for the retail center.
“As of now, the expectation is that should anyone park up there that they would come around and walk down on some steps,” Erdman said. “However that property is actually owned by the Balduses, so they have some further longterm plans of redeveloping that. We are proposing a stairway from the parking lot down to a walkway.”
“People going into an office building will tend to park on another lot and walk to the build-
ing,” said Town Councilman Keith Back. “People going to a restaurant or grocery store don’t tend to park two blocks down the street and hike to the grocery store. There are only 54 spots in front of the building. Going to a restaurant or grocery store, you typically want to park in front of the restaurant or grocery store.”
“I personally don’t have a problem with park- ing behind the building; people do it already in the town,” said planning commission Chairwoman Debra W. Posey. “I think the only problem that I have is that I agree with everyone else. There’s really no walk pattern from that parking lot. In theory we are constantly talking about crosswalks
and how we need to have good crosswalks at every spot. We have nothing coming down from that spot to the retail center.”
Although planning com- mission member Roy Hancock abstained from the vote, the planning commission approved the site plan with staff’s existing recommendation of the stormwater management and new stipula- tions.
“The addition of a set of stairs from the 25 parking spots down to the back parking lot, and with a crosswalk connected to the sidewalk,” Posey said. “If no new plans come within five years, the wooden stairs will be replaced with permanent concrete stairs with metal railings.”