Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Follow-up to Kroger in Royal Oak

Remember my promise from June?
I have a lot more to write about this issue, including coverage from Royal Oak Patch that follows up on the meetings and the provides more detail and my personal opinion of this (it's a very local issue for me, as the site in question is within walking distance of where my wife and I live--she has an opinion, too), but I have to run an errand and go to work. Stay tuned!
I never got around to doing that until now. I do have a good excuse, which was that I got distracted by Julie Bass and her fight with Oak Park over her vegetable garden, but it's still an excuse. In the spirit of better late than never, here are the highlights of what I missed during the past two months.

First, there was another hearing on July 12th, as WXYZ reported.

Debate over Kroger in Royal Oak

That didn't go so well. As the Royal Oak Daily Tribune reported, there will not be a Kroger on Main Street in Royal Oak.

City officials sent Kroger packing when the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a special land use permit for a $16 million store on Main Street.

The formal vote was taken Tuesday, a month after plan commissioners said the 49,700-square-foot project didn't meet the city's master plan vision of keeping the downtown character along Main by providing storefront continuity.
My wife was thrilled. She sent a letter to all of the members of the planning commission against Kroger being located downtown, mostly on the basis of Kroger being a corporate threat to local businesses. That's not why the planning commission rejected the bid.
Mayor Jim Ellison, who sits on the Planning Commission, said all projects have to meet the master plan, which is the city's development guide, and zoning ordinances.

"It's our job up here to fight for the master plan," Ellison said. "It was put in place by a group of citizens. They told us what they expected to see and that's not reflected on this site plan."

The mayor said it isn't easy turning down a project that will add to the tax base, but "if it's not the right project, it's not the right project."

Plan Commissioner Thomas Hallock put it this way: "Kroger is fine; it's the plan that failed. The plan doesn't meet our expectations."
Kroger wanted to build a store that sat in the back half of the lot with the parking lot in front. The city wanted a building that came up to the front of the lot, hence "storefront continuity," with the parking lot in the back. Kroger's store in downtown Birmingham has that plan, as does the Hillers in downtown Berkley. However, that just wasn't in the cards, as Kroger didn't like that plan for the store and the seller ran out of time.
Developer Edward T. Boutrous said he met with Kroger officials as recently as July 25 about changing their original proposal to no avail.

"We studied this laboriously and that footprint for a number of reasons doesn't work very well," Boutrous said.

There isn't time to rework the plan again, he added.

"There was this misunderstanding that we'll turn these guys down and they'll come back with something we might like better," Boutrous said. "Unfortunately, I can tell you our option is up Aug. 30. We already got it extended once because we didn't anticipate it would take as long as it has. If we get the denial vote then the seller will start looking for someone else because we'll be out of the picture."
Time for plan B. I wonder if Whole Foods is interested in buying a $3.5 million dollar property and complying with Royal Oak's master plan?

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