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The Hendersonville City Council approved big changes to Southgate Shopping Center, clearing the way for Fresh Market and Stein Mart expansions and improvements that will make the parking lot more orderly and attractive and less like a life-size bumper car floor.
The council unanimously granted a special use permit and a rear setback variance so the property manager, Faison Development of Charlotte, can move ahead with the changes, which are expected to be completed by the fall of 2013.
Among the changes are substantial improvements to the stormwater management system. Runoff from the roof of the buildings will be channeled into an underground storage system, which will hold it until it is treated and then released.
The work does not include uncapping the creek, which runs under the shopping center and creates the hump that runs through the middle.
"I think this is a great improvement and I'm delighted to see this finally happening," said Councilman Ron Stephens. "But I'm personally disappointed that that's not being exposed. I understand the cost but I regret that it's not being done. I think it would help with flood control as well as the esthetics."
Matt Sprouse, of Sitework Studios, and Kenneth McCoy, a senior managing director at Faison Properties, said uncapping the creek was not practical because of costs and parking needs.
"Uncapping that stream with stream buffers and the elevation, you would be taking away most of the parking," McCoy said. "These are national tenants and they require a certain number of spaces per 1,000 square feet" of retail floor space. If the developer reduced the number of spaces by that amount, he said, it would likely lose those tenants.
Larry Baber, a pharmacist who owns commercial property across the street, said people have the perception that the covered creek causes the flooding at White Street and Greenville Highway.
"I have been watching that for 43 years," Baber said. "The covered stream does not cause any flooding; water flows freely through it. The covered stream does not affect the water flow."
Landscaped islands with trees will help direct traffic through the parking lot. Mayor Barbara Volk applauded that part of the plan.
"In the parking lot, cars go every which way," she said. "You have to be looking in more than four directions to make sure you don't get hit. So having some structure with the driving would be very much appreciated."
The council tried to address concerns raised by neighboring property owner Nancy McDonald, whose business on Davis Street is directly behind the Fresh Market.
"When it's nice outside I like to open my windows and let in fresh air but there's not fresh air behind the Fresh Market," McDonald said.
McCoy has visited her property and tried to address her concerns about odor from the grocery store's large compactor and about trash that she says piles up behind the store and blows onto her property. City Planning Director Sue Anderson said the city will require that the dumpster be screened. McCoy told the council he would commit to making sure a wood or stone enclosure would surround the garbage container as part of the backlot improvements.
The Fresh Market is expanding by 10,000 square feet as part of the shopping center renovation. Stein Mart is moving to the space on the south end of the shopping center closest to White Street, doubling in size to 29,100 square feet and adding menswear and housewares.