Super Wal-Mart to arrive

By Thomas Wilson


   Super Wal-Mart is coming.
   After years of speculation, a site plan submitted to the city of Elizabethton planning department indicates that the buy-for-less behemoth has plans to build a Supercenter on the North American Corporation property.
   "As most people know, the planning commission has been working with super Wal-Mart representatives for some time," said Haynes Elliott, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.
   "It appears Wal-Mart has settled on a site. We are meeting with their representatives in the near future to hopefully work out the site preparation."
   City of Elizabethton director of planning and development, David Ornduff, said Tuesday that the Knoxville-based firm Certified Properties had submitted a site plan to develop the 22.69-acre tract where the North American Corporation building stands. The building was effectively destroyed by a massive fire that occurred on Feb. 26, 2000.
   The site plan submitted to the city plans for a building covering 205,000 square feet. Parking lot space would have to meet zoning regulations governing a commercial property development of that type.
   Telephone calls to Certified Properties based in Knoxville were not immediately returned.
   Ornduff said the site plan did not include the property tract where the North American power house building stands.
   How a pending decision regarding a lawsuit filed by the city against NAC could effect the development is uncertain.
   Attorneys representing the city of Elizabethton filed a lawsuit against the NAC, North American Fibers, and Charles K. Green, individually and as "alter ego" for the companies. The city's suit requested the defendants be held responsible for the cost of a new section of sewer line installed by the city after a landfill was built over the existing line on NAF property.
   The amount of the suit is more than $1 million and covers the cost of the design and construction of the new sewer line as well as interest for yearly maintenance.
   Lawyers for both sides filed post-trial briefs on Jan. 10 to sum up their arguments in the case and to provide information on similar trials to aid the Chancellor in his decision.
   Ornduff declined to comment on issues pertaining to the pending decision, but he did say the city would weigh the development's benefits to the community rather than legalities.
   "This would be a project that would stand on its own," he said. "We would evaluate how it would meet the needs of the community and our role to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of the city."
   The primary attorney representing the city in that case, Charlton DeVault, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Green also did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
   The northern connector highway corridor is projected to extend along the north side of the Watauga River opposite of the North American property.
   A representative of Wal-Mart Store, Inc., headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. referred questions to Daphne Moore with the company's regional office in Alabama. Moore was not available to discuss the site plan.
   According to the company's Web site, Wal-Mart planned an aggressive unit growth for the 2004 fiscal year beginning Feb. 1, 2003. Domestically, the Wal-Mart division plans to open approximately 45 to 55 new discount stores and 200 to 210 new Supercenters.
   As of Aug. 31, 2002, the company had 1,603 Wal-Mart stores, 1,179 Supercenters, 517 Sam's Clubs and 36 Neighborhood Markets in the United States.