Evidence of a Waynesville Publix store is only circumstantial

By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 08, 2016

The buzz around Waynesville is that the activity on Frazier Street off of Russ Avenue could eventually lead to the opening of a Publix grocery store in the community.

It is a rumor for which there is no proof, but does have a hint of circumstantial evidence.

Don Stephenson, a broker/realtor with ReMax Mountain Realty in Waynesville, is representing the buyers, a shopping center/retail developer that has a track record and a long list of properties they’ve developed. He said the company is in the due diligence phase.

There are four property owners in the Frazier Street and Russ Avenue area who have indicated a willingness to sell and have accepted earnest money.

One of the properties is the site of The Lodge, a motel owned by Big Sky Investment Corporation. A Memorandum of Sales Contract is on file at the Haywood County Register of Deeds office and indicates the purchaser is MAB Acquisitions, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company.

Research shows this company has a history of developing shopping centers where Publix is an anchor store.

Troy Muse, who owns nearly three acres off Frazier Street behind the Sagebrush, said he signed a blind contract to sell his property.

“I made a deal with a broker,” he said. “He won’t tell me who he is trying to sell it to, but it is with the same broker who put a deal together with Publix. There are four different pieces tied together. Sagebrush is not included.”

Muse isn't signing new leases with tenants and said many of the tenants in the warehouse/retail buildings on his property have moved out.

Muse estimates it could be nine months before the deal closes.

“There is a contract with earnest money,” he said. “The deal is 99 percent done, but it’s never done until you get your money.”

Other properties that are part of the package include the 1.87 acres owned by Big Sky Investments Corporation where The Lodge operates; 0.32 acres of commercial property owned by William Richard Sutton, Jr. and 1.53 acres owned by James and Peggy Ann Roberts.

Muse said he bought the property at that site in the early 1980s and developed it.

“I’ve been milking that cow a long time,” he said. “ I’m not doing this just for the money because it’s hard to replace what I’ve got there, but the town of Waynesville is looking at newer buildings, and this will help the appearance of Waynesville. This is about creating jobs, too.”

Muse said he is regularly approached and asked if he is selling out to Publix.

“I tell them I don’t know that,” he said. “I signed a blind contract.”

Stephenson said he can't reveal certain details and doesn't know many specifics.

“I don’t know the name of the tenants, the size of the center and don’t know how it will be situated on the property,” he said. “Our hope as citizens of the town of Waynesville is that we do get a Publix. We’re very familiar with Publix, but I don’t know that that’s the case.”

Stephenson said nothing in the deal is cast in stone.

“They still have a significant amount of engineering and due diligence that they are in the process of doing,” he said.

Frontage pieces that are important wrap around the Sagebrush piece, Stephenson said, noting the key parcels are the Muse, Sutton and motel properties.

Site under study

Elizabeth Teague, development services director for the Town of Waynesville, said an engineering firm from Duluth, Georgia, was in town this summer where they went over some of the site issues.

“The best I could tell is they were doing their due diligence,” Teague said. “In redeveloping a site like that, particularly at that location, one of the things the town looks at is making sure we could create the sidewalk connections that will tie into the overall Russ Avenue corridor. Anything that goes in there, we want to bring into alignment for our long-range plan.”

One issue of concern is storm water, not only because of the slope on the property, but because of the existing amount of impervious surface on adjoining properties and an on-site underground creek.

“We want to make sure, whatever does go in there, that we use that as an opportunity to make site improvements for the long-term betterment of everybody,” she said.

Other issues the town would examine if an official site plan is submitted are access on both Frazier Street, which dead ends near the end of the property under contract, and Russ Avenue and how parking lots or driveways would connect to the streets.

If a development impacts the public realm, Teague said the town would ask the developer for certain accommodations.

“For instance, if Frazier Street is used, we would ask the developer to make improvements to accommodate trucks and traffic,” she said.

Teague said she has had no further contact with the engineering firm since its visit.

A spokesperson for Publix's Charlotte office said those interested in learning more about the grocer and new development could follow at nc.publix.com. There is nothing on the site regarding a store opening in Waynesville.