Broulim's

A preliminary concept plan from Broulim’s outlines a roughly 20,000 sq. ft. store with five second-floor apartments. The front of the store is accessed from the sidewalk on Center Street and behind the store there is a large parking lot.

The Victor Planning & Zoning Commission will continue to review the Broulim’s rezone request next month, after solidifying a list of conditions to impose on the developer at the March 18 meeting.

The grocery chain is seeking a rezone from civic to commercial mixed-use on the old Victor Elementary property on Center Street, which Broulim’s is under contract to purchase from the school district. The P&Z commission first considered the application in February, and after reviewing the proposal as well as a significant amount of public input, the commissioners drafted a series of restrictions on the business, with a request to the city planning staff to run the recommendations by the applicant, Broulim’s vice president Mark Oswald.

Those conditions included limits on what Broulim’s could sell in Victor, more required housing units on the second floor, fewer curb cuts on Center Street, and price parity with other Broulim’s stores.

However, at the March 18 meeting, there was some uncertainty about whether the applicant had had the time to respond and whether he should be allowed to introduce new information after the public hearing had closed.

While he did not address all the commission’s proposed conditions, Oswald did send an email to city planner Kim Kolner early in March that said he was very disappointed in how the February meeting had gone. He described the conditions as “so sad. So short sighted,” as well as “self-serving” and “not good planning.”

“Do you really feel like it’s your right to make arbitrary decisions on what we can sell and then fix the price on those items based on some other pricing and also dictate what our hours of operations should be?” Oswald asked of the commission on March 18. “I don’t believe this is good business and I question its legality.”

The P&Z commissioners told Oswald they found his response to be inflammatory and disrespectful.

“I think we were deliberate and fairly serious when we sat down and talked about this,” said Commissioner Matt Thackray. “For an applicant to come forward and say, ‘I’m getting a raw deal and I don’t like it and we’re going to go play in another sand box,’ well, I’m sorry. We’ve got stacks of comments from citizens who have publicly stated that they’re against this project and we’re trying to do right by our community and work with you to make your project happen.”

P&Z asked Oswald to respond to each of the items on the proposed list of conditions.

While Oswald said Broulim’s is amenable to ordering a traffic study, building the façade out of natural materials (including locally-quarried stone from the old school), and opening on Sundays, he warned that if the city prohibited a pharmacy or the sale of alcohol, prepared foods, and gifts, and required more housing than the proposed five units, it could torpedo the company’s plan to build a Victor store.

The commissioners removed some of the conditions like the price fixing requirement, operating hours requirement, prepared foods prohibition, and the additional leasable commercial space requirement. Despite Oswald’s warning, they opted to keep the other sales restrictions in place, and asked for street trees, benches, and more thoughtful vehicular access on Center Street, possibly by using the adjacent city parking lot instead of making a new curb cut. They also requested that Broulim’s host a neighborhood meeting before submitting a site plan application.

“Getting neighborhood buy-in is huge,” said Commissioner Kristi Aslin.

In order to give the company more time to substantively address those conditions, the commissioners voted to continue the item again before they make their recommendation to the city council.

Thackray summed up the proceedings by saying, “I think we’re all a little tortured on this.”

The item will be discussed at the P&Z’s rescheduled April meeting, to be held on Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m.