On Sept. 9 the Victor City Council voted to pass a maximum footprint size of 20,000 sq. ft. for new retail buildings within city limits.
In 2019 the the city council passed an interim ordinance restricting non-residential buildings to a 15,000 sq. ft. maximum footprint, with the intention of giving the city time to update its comprehensive plan without large-scale development pressure. With the ordinance set to expire this month, the city council held a public hearing last week on a new, permanent limit of 20,000 sq. ft. on commercial buildings.
“This ordinance is not anti-development, it’s pro-development, and it’s not reactionary, it’s very proactive; it’s sustainable, smart planning,” Mayor Will Frohlich said about the proposed permanent size cap. As a council member he had been the one to first suggest more limitations on large commercial development. “It’s clear to me that small town feel, sustainability, walkability, and protecting and revitalizing the downtown core are of the utmost importance to this community.”
In one of the city’s comprehensive plan surveys, there were several questions regarding the size limit. The majority of respondents (140 out of 183, not all of whom were Victor residents or business owners) were in favor of a size cap and when offered a range of sizes they mostly chose a number from 11,000 to 15,000 sq. ft., with some preferring 20,000-plus.
During Wednesday’s council meeting, only two members of the public spoke. An attorney representing a Victor property owner called the ordinance “unnecessarily restrictive” with a “blanket approach” to planning and said that the city should continue to address commercial development on a case-by-case basis. Shawn Hill, the executive director of Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, said he was concerned that the cap would limit multi-use buildings with apartments.
The new square footage maximum does not preclude a property owner from building multiple 20,000 sq. ft. retail buildings on a lot, or from building a multi-story structure with more total floor space than 20,000, as long as the building’s footprint remains within the limit. According to the amended land use code, developers seeking to build retail structures with a footprint larger than 15,000 sq. ft. will need a conditional use permit.
Councilwoman Molly Absolon said she was initially concerned that CUPs were too cumbersome but planning director Kim Kolner assured her that the planning department felt that it was a workable tool.
Civic and institutional buildings such as churches and schools are exempt from the limit.
The decision could impact a large deal in the works in Victor; last month Broulim’s placed a $600,000 bid to the school district for the old Victor Elementary School property on Center Street. At past Victor City Council meetings, executives from the eastern Idaho grocery store chain have said that building small stores didn’t pencil, cost-wise, and that even the 50,000 sq. ft. Driggs branch wasn’t quite as big as they’d like. During a special meeting on Sept. 10, the school board agreed to the buyer’s request for a six-month due diligence period, which would include time for any rezone or CUP approvals needed from Victor.
The three Victor City Council members present at the Sept. 9 meeting agreed that they supported the cap and voted in favor of it.
“I don’t feel like it’s alarmist, I feel like it’s good planning,” said Councilwoman Amy Ross. “We’re offering options where people can build in a way that still fits with our vision of the City of Victor.”