Sam's Club chooses Westside Aiken site
After years of discussions on proposed construction of a Sam's Club in Aiken, the membership warehouse has selected a parcel at the intersection of the Robert M. Bell Parkway and U.S. 1.Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the parent company of Sam's Club, has proposed construction of a 136,085-square-foot building on 31-plus acres of undeveloped land just west of the city limits of Aiken.Stephen Strohminger, planning director for the Aiken County Planning and Development Department, said he does not anticipate that they will consider annexing into the City of Aiken.Water and sewer service will be provided by the Valley Public Service Authority. The shopping area will be located in the GVW fire district.The membership club and other outparcels will be accessed from two entrances off U.S. 1 and one off the Robert M. Bell Parkway bypass. Each of the three driveways will have a dedicated turning lane.•They have also proposed a traffic signal on U.S. 1 when traffic volumes reach a certain level,• Strohminger added.A traffic study projection estimates that shoppers, employees and service personnel will make roughly 5,000 to 6,600 trips to the shopping area each day.A gas station, car wash and other outparcels are also proposed for construction at the future site.No plans have been submitted for those outparcels yet, which are 10,000 square feet each, Strohminger said.About a month ago, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. submitted a site plan to the planning commission, and on Thursday the engineer went before the commission requesting approval of two variances.The parking spots will be •a little• smaller than required, and the developer asked to move a landscaping island, Strohminger said.Both variances were approved.Strohminger said he expects construction may begin as early as late fall. Messages left for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were not returned as of press time.In 2006, the discount store giant had plans for a Sam's Club on a site near the intersection of Whiskey Road and Powderhouse Road. The Aiken County Planning Commission denied approval of a concept plan for the members-only bulk warehouse retail store in July of that year.The rejection of the concept plan came on the heels of local residents' expressions of concern about the impact of the megastore on their neighborhoods. It may have been similar concerns that scrapped a Cleveland real estate company's 2007 plans to develop a 150,000 square-foot shopping center on the same property.The company sought out suitable alternative sites once that plan was scuttled, but those efforts were unsuccessful, and, in 2008, a Wal-Mart representative told the Aiken Standard they had no plans to build a store in Aiken.In January 2008, an Aiken resident proposed his 17 acres of land on Whiskey Road near Duke's Bar-B-Q as a possible Sam's Club site, but Wal-Mart spokesperson Tara Stewart said the property did not meet the company's basic needs for a Sam's Club location.•The issue is not that there is no land. We continue to look for a site to best serve our customers and the small business owners in Aiken,• she said at the time.At present the nearest Sam's Club is located in Augusta, on the Bobby Jones Expressway. Founded in 1983, Sam's Club is the eighth largest retailer in the United States and has nearly 600 locations across the country. The company reports some 47 million shoppers currently hold membership in Sam's Clubs.Staff writer Suzanne Stone contributed to this article.Contact Karen Daily at email@example.com.