An empty lot just off of Williston Road in South Burlington could be the future site of a Whole Foods market. Rumors that the natural and organic chain store might come to Vermont have been circulating for years and now the company confirms it does intend to open a store in 2011.
The company issued a statement to Channel 3 this week that says, "We do have a great site confirmed in South Burlington, which we are very excited about."
While the company seems committed to opening the new store, South Burlington's city planner says Whole Foods has not filed any formal plans. Nor has any developer associated with the company.
"We've seen the rumors just like everyone else, we've had some informal discussions with them over the last couple of years, but nothing recently," says Paul Conner.
Conner says if Whole Foods plans to build store it will have to go through a lengthy process that includes permitting from the state and city, dealing with wetlands and stormwater issues, and dealing with traffic. The intersection of Williston Road and Dorset Street - just a block from where the entrance to the Whole Foods might be - is one of the busiest intersections in the state. The city is already looking at what might need to be done to accomodate a Whole Foods or any other business that might want to build in the site.
"There are solutions that can be found to anything but it's going to be a challenging one if there's ever a proposal that comes into that area," says Conner.
While there are concerns about an increase of traffic at that intersection, just a few blocks down the road the owner of Healthy Living is worried about a decrease of traffic coming into her store.
Katy Lesser says she is prepared for potential competition from Whole Foods. She insists that pricing between her store and a Whole Foods would not be much different. She is also confident Vermonters will prefer to buy local rather than spend money in a store based out of Texas.
"This to me is where the rubber meets the road about local," says Lesser. "Are we going to support local business, whether it's local hardware stores in the face of Home Depot, or local natural foods market, like City Market and Healthy Living, in the face of Whole Foods?"
It is a decision Vermonters might have to make but not for at least a few years.
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