By Kara Lopp
When Publix opens a store in Mint Hill, the retailer will have a bigger sign facing N.C. 51 than nearby Harris Teeter.
The size of the store’s signs was among the conditions town commissioners and developer Florida-based Stiles Corporation battled back and forth about on Thursday, July 18 before a unanimous vote to approve the project.
Construction on the Mint Hill Commons shopping center could begin as early as the first quarter of 2014 and the retail portion of the project could be complete within a year.
Stiles requested 165-square-foot signs for above the store’s front entrance and along the side of the building facing N.C. 51, but town code caps its total sign size at 64 square feet. While the town’s sign ordinance allows for exceptions for buildings set back off the road – which covers the building’s front sign – the Publix building will be too close to N.C. 51 to allow for a larger sign on the side of the building according to the code, Senior Planner John Hoard said.
A bigger sign on N.C. 51 “really helps give the necessary marketing and exposure to N.C. 51 that we need,” at what is “essentially the front door,” Scott MacLaren, senior vice president of Stiles, said.
Town staff recommended keeping the Publix sign to 64 square feet, but commissioners said that was too small but the 165-square-foot sign was too large for N.C. 51.
“I just think that’s too big,” Commissioner Brenda McRae said of the 165 square foot sign request. “As close to (N.C.) 51 as its going to be, I think it’s too big. But 64-square-feet is going to look odd.”
Instead, commissioners and developers came to a compromise: the sign on the N.C. 51 side of the building will be about 21 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The sign at the front entrance will cover 165 square feet at about 23 feet wide and 7 feet tall.
“I do understand staff’s desire to stick with what we have in the code, but this might be an example of something we need to look at,” Commissioner Tina Ross said.
The development will bring a right-in/right-out entrance to the Mint Hill Library, additional library access from Lawyers Road and a raised pedestrian crosswalk on N.C. 51.
The 65,000-square-foot retail shopping center development on about 11 acres at the front of the site will be anchored by a 49,098-square-foot Publix with a pharmacy drive-thru. The remaining acreage is slated for single-family houses or townhouses, to be built in a second phase.
Access to the retail center will be possible two ways off Matthews-Mint Hill Road and through one driveway off Lawyers Road. Plans show the extension of the existing Brighton Park Drive with a concrete median installed in front of Evans Road and call for the construction of a rear driveway to give library patrons and shoppers access to Lawyers Road.
Within 18 months after Publix gets its certificate of occupancy, developers must build sidewalks along their Lawyers Road frontage, according to the plan. Sidewalks also will be built along N.C. 51 as part of the project.
Results of a traffic study recommend a traffic signal at Brighton Park Drive and N.C. 51 by full build-out. But Stiles has committed to install the signal in the first phase, if the North Carolina Department of Transportation approves, Hoard said. The entire project – retail and residential – is expected to be complete by 2018.