Asheville Trader Joe’s won’t need Council approval

Since news broke last week that Trader Joe’s is coming to Merrimon Avenue, reactions have ranged from enthusiastic support to criticism over its location. But there won’t be any showdown in the halls of government: Due to city rules, the grocery chain’s proposed location won’t go before Asheville City Council or the Planning and Zoning Commission for a vote.

“It’s a level I site plan, which means there’s no public process,” Planning Director Judy Daniel tells Xpress. “It’s 13,000 square feet and the threshold for a Level II project — which would go to Planning and Zoning — is 45,000 square feet in that zoning district.”

Some Ashevilleans have long sought to get a Trader Joe’s in town, a Facebook page dedicated to bringing the chain here has over 6,000 “likes.”

But the specifics of this proposal: the removal of several local businesses, its location between a current grocery store (Greenlife) and another on the way (Harris Teeter) along with the already considerable traffic on the Merrimon corridor have fueled plenty of naysayers as well. Often, disputes over new developments get decided in Council chambers, but possibly not this time.

Nonetheless, city staff still have to sign off on a number of specifics before Trader Joe’s becomes a reality.

“The most important condition was the need for a Traffic Impact Study,” Daniel replies vial email. “Other technical standards that staff needs further information on to complete their review involve outdoor lighting, sidewalk, landscaping, retaining wall and ADA accessibility details — a comment letter requesting more information was sent to the applicant on May 14, 2012. To date, the applicant has not yet submitted anything to address these items.”


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