GOSHEN — The Goshen Plan Commission approved the preliminary plans laid out by Walmart and Manhard Consulting Ltd. to demolish the existing building on Elkhart Road and build a new one just south of the site.
Rhonda Yoder, planning and zoning administrator for the city, gave a detailed report of the plans and how it measured up to city and zoning regulations.
For the most part, the plan fits those regulations.
If and when the final plans are accepted by city council, the project would be separated into four phases. The first phase would be to construct both a stormwater detention area in vacant land to the southeast of the present Walmart and a temporary truck route on the east side of the building to accommodate deliveries during the project.
Phase two would see the construction of a new Walmart Supercenter on currently vacant land, directly south of the existing structure.
After the new building is complete, construction of approximately 203 additional parking spaces would begin to the west of the existing Walmart building before the fourth and final stage, which would include the demolition of the current structure to make way for more parking.
Tracy Richard, vice president and project manager for Manhard Consulting the firm that helped design the plans, said that while the existing building is undergoing demolition and the subsequent transition to a parking lot, Walmart could potentially shuttle customers from the far ends of the parking lot to the new building.
Yoder cited only two major issues the designers need to discuss with city officials before final plans are submitted.
The Goshen Fire Department said they would require 50 feet of hard surface on the west side of the building to provide enough area for a building collapse zone and safe maneuvering of trucks in case of a fire.
The depth of the parking spaces was also an issue for the commission, as the proposal allowed for less than city regulations required.
Richard said that the measurements for the parking spaces were the same as nearly all other Walmarts he had been involved with before and the dimensions had worked just fine. He added, however, that they were willing to discuss and meet any regulations the city felt were absolutely necessary.
A final major topic for the proposal was buggy and bicycle access to the new store.
The commission requested that Walmart provide an easement that connects Walmart with the city’s planned bicycle and buggy access to the Market Centre planned unit development, in which the Walmart is located.
If the project receives the green light, Walmart will be responsible for the Market Centre portion of the path, which will extend north to C.R. 28.
Walmart and Manhard Consulting will continue to work with city planners and engineers to fine-tune the proposals before submitting a final plan.
The next stop for the plans will be city council, who will review the proposal at an upcoming meeting.
Richard added they hope to have approval and all the necessary building permits by April or May of 2013.
Jason Wetzel, director of public affairs and government relations for Walmart, said the larger Walmart Supercenter would increase the current workforce at the Elkhart Road store from about 130 employees to approximately 300.
Richard noted that the construction phase of projects like this usually take 10 or 11 months and he and Wetzel both said they anticipate the construction to be done by the spring of 2014 if all goes as planned.