WILSON — A German discount grocery chain is a step closer to opening one of its first U.S. locations after Wilson Borough Council granted the project conditional use approval Monday night.
Lidl US LLC wants to build a 36,170-square-foot grocery store and have 163 parking spots at 1120 S. 25th St. Because the area is zoned general industrial, the project needed conditional use approval.
Next, Lidl officials will have to submit their land development plans for the borough's review. The project will also need approvals from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Easton Suburban Water Authority, and — because both Freemansburg Avenue and South 25th Street are state-owned — from PennDOT.
Council unanimously granted the conditional use approval as long as Lidl officials obtain all the necessary approvals from those entities.
A second Lehigh Valley location for a Lidl store has been proposed for 2845 MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township on a portion of the vacant property next to Gilboy Ford.
A spokesman for Lidl said last week that the company plans to open stores in several mid-Atlantic states no later than 2018.
The property for the Wilson store is owned by Victor Balata Belting Co., which also leases land on Freemansburg Avenue to a J.D. Byrider used car lot.
The site has two buildings and a water tower, which will be removed to make way for the store, project engineer Kyle Bollinger said.
Lidl would take 5.7 acres and use entrances on both South 25th and Freemansburg Avenue. Delivery trucks would enter and exit the store via the Freemansburg Avenue entrance.
Asked about the amount of truck traffic the store could generate, project manager Michael McGrath said he anticipates one to two delivery trucks per day.
The company has indicated construction could start as soon as next year if all necessary approvals are received.
There are already two other chain grocery stores in the area.
The new store would be directly across from Aldi on South 25th Street and a few blocks from the Giant Food Store in Palmer Town Centre. Lidl would be about double the size of the Aldi supermarket, McGrath said.
Some residents questioned the need for the new store.
"What's the benefits to residents and why do we need another grocery store?" asked Sean Hockman.
Mayor David Perusso said the borough has many older residents who do not want to drive any farther than they need to. The store would give them an option. It would also be next to a bike path, providing easy access for those who do not drive.
In addition, the store will provide a tax benefit to the borough, Perusso said.
Hockman suggested that instead of a grocery store, the borough look into creating a youth recreation center at the site.
"Where is that money going to come from?" Perusso asked.
"You're the mayor, you tell me," Hockman said.
According to Lidl officials, the chain has about 10,000 stores in 26 countries, and the U.S. would be its 27th. Shoppers can find a variety of store and national brands, as well as fresh meat and produce, bakery items and household goods.
Because the store already has many locations throughout Europe, some European brands and foods might be available at the U.S. locations, McGrath said Monday.
•In other business, about 30 residents showed up to protest a resolution that council was reviewing to reduce the Recreation Board from nine members to seven.
Council officials said they had been considering the resolution because the board does not have enough volunteers and frequently does not have a quorum.
Recreation Board members Monday said that does not happen often, and reducing the number of members would mean not enough seats for representatives of all the borough's sports associations.
Members of the six sports associations and residents spoke for about an hour in favor of keeping the Recreation Board at nine positions.