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Planning Commission Unanimously Denies Kroger Proposal

Panel wants "urban appeal" development on vacant north end Fresard property.

Though made an attempt at the beginning of Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting to justify a plan proposed at the July 12 meeting, the Planning Commission didn’t waver in its decision to deny Kroger's proposal to build a 45,000-square-foot store on the vacant Fresard property.

Ed Boutrous, member of the Kroger team, noted that Kroger officials still feel strongly about the plans they submitted and that they were insulted by some of the spoken and written comments from Royal Oak residents opposing the proposed store.

Boutrous explained that the store is not a "big box" store. He also noted that Kroger would not invest nearly $18 million on a project just to test the waters and leave within a few years, as some people have speculated.

“I have been doing this a long time and never have I seen so much controversy over a grocery store,” Boutrous said.

Commissioners rose to defend Kroger, saying that there were many inappropriate comments made in recent months, and that they did not base their decision on the many statements offered by the public.

“The petitioner has been very gracious about taking a lot of flack,” Planning Commissioner Dan Godek said. “There has been a lot of silliness out there, but also some good facts.”

Several residents voiced their support for the Kroger project and urged the commissioners to think again before officially denying the project.

“I’m saddened that we are on the verge of rejecting a retailer,” Royal Oak resident Dennis Landis said. “I would like to see something start happening on the north side.”

Some residents spoke in opposition to the proposed store.

Despite the voices of support, commissioners voted unanimously to deny the project.

“I do believe this is an extraordinary site,” Godek said of the former Fresard lot. “I think this property will see more development.”

“Our job up here is to fight for the master plan,” Mayor Jim Ellison said. “The master plan was a long process and required a tremendous amount of citizen input. Citizens told us through that planning process what they expected to see and this particular area of the city is where they said they expected to see something. That was not reflected in this project.”

The city's planning department listed eight reasons for the denial. Among them:

  • The plan did not promote a walkable community.
  • It did not blend in well with the surrounding area.
  • It did not have the urban appeal that the city desires, but instead gave a suburban feel.
  • The proposed Kroger did not add recognizable improvements or material benefits to the city.
  • It would not economically enhance surrounding properties. 
Sue Fabian August 10, 2011 at 11:17 AM
Whether Kroger is labeled a big box store or not, i do believe it would have diminished local sustainability. Not only would it have likely hurt two existing, long-time and local grocers, profits would have gone outstate. Yes, potential jobs and sales, property and business tax are lost in the short-run, but at what long-term costs? (Google Dan Houston's work, or view Independent America for further thought). In my view, we have become a nation of short-term thinkers. Royal Oak already has oodles of chain businesses. Let's now focus on local independents who best enhance local sustainability. Sue Fabian
Norm August 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM
It is a sad that the no agreement could have been worked out with Kroger. I find the reason for denial listed above laughable. I think the city made the wrong decision and it will be regreted.
Andy S. August 10, 2011 at 01:00 PM
I'm glad they stuck to the master plan... Why would we want a big box store and a big parking lot on that site ?... We need a nice hotel or an office / retail development there. Both of those would increase daytime foot traffic downtown.
Deanna Tocco August 10, 2011 at 02:55 PM
think its interesting that they can approve bars and restaurants (and giant theaters) left and right but god forbid we have another grocery store...
Mike August 10, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Maybe if Kroger put some barstools inside the door and played some loud music they would have been approved. This city is not Bloomfield Hills. Get off your high horse and realize it is what it is, a drinking destination for metro Detroit. Prices are cheaper at Kroger and the money from the wages stays in the Royal Oak area. I doubt the other two grocers spend much money in the city. With all of the new bars and clubs around here I also think that they " would not economically enhance surrounding properties" . Also what is this supose to mean? "•It did not have the urban appeal that the city desires, but instead gave a suburban feel" !!! Hollwood Market sure doesn't give an urban appeal , especially with that tacky Green and white signage..
Norm August 10, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Mike, Well said.....
Michael Byrne August 10, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Mike unfortunately the city wants an urban, not suburban look. Doesn't want to look like Birmingham, Troy, Berkley, Madison Hghts, Ferndale, no they say they want to look like Detroit, Hamtramyck, River Rouge. Well said planning commission. We need a new planning commission and a new master plan.
Michael Byrne August 11, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Sue Fabian, can't you possibly pass up the myopic rant that you and the crazies of the PRO movement support. You continue to spread the same dishonesty that you tried to smear Kroger with before. That report that you quote was pointing out Walmart, Target and Big Box stores. You continue to quote inaccuracies. Stop It. Kroger is not a big box store, no more than Holiday, which by the way is MUCH larger than the Kroger plan was.
Debbie Campbell August 11, 2011 at 01:17 PM
The implementation of a comprehensive master plan via zoning ordinances is one of the most common methods of land use control used by local governments. Our Planning Commissioners’ action to deny Kroger’s petition were responsible and appropriate. Our master plan and corresponding zoning ordinances are the result of many months of City-wide community input and study. If our Planning Commissioners had voted to replace the crumbing structures on the Fresard site with a new development that violates the City’s development guidelines this action would have violated the intent of zoning which is to: Balance individual property rights with the interests and general welfare of the community To create a healthy, safe and orderly living environment Promote desirable development patterns Separate incompatible uses Maintain community character and aesthetics Protect public and private investments Our Planning Commissioners should be applauded for their prudent and responsible action.
Sue Fabian August 11, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Debbie, you've made a comprehensive, intelligent, and and non-name-calling or shouting point. Good for you. Sue Fabian
Wm. Allen August 13, 2011 at 07:35 PM
I can't believe R.O. could compromise with Kroger. I'm not sure an empty car dealer ship fits with the Master Plan any better. I hope this doesn't turn out to be another Buffalo Wild Wings decision, where a spot sits empty for a very long time. With that said, I appreciate the efforts of all our hard working commissioners and we have a great mayor. I just don't agree with every one of their decisions.
Debbie Campbell August 13, 2011 at 09:15 PM
The entire situation was/is very disappointing and it’s truly about Kroger’s unwillingness to compromise with Royal Oak. The Fresard site is huge and would have easily accommodated a very large store (2 times the sq. footage of Hollywood) completely spanning the Main Street frontage as was asked for by the Planning Commission. This configuration would have accomplished an urban feel design while moving the loading docks further away from the residences and parks thus mitigating the ordinance violations (noise and fumes) associated with the loading docks. For whatever reason Kroger refused to design the type configuration for Royal Oak that they delivered to Grosse Pointe and Birmingham. I’m hopeful with the greatly reduced price of the site that something wonderful will be built there very soon—although Kroger may still have the property tied up under contract.
Michael Byrne August 14, 2011 at 12:44 AM
It is truly disappointing because you keep telling untruths Debbie, it was the city that was unable to compromise.
Debbie Campbell August 14, 2011 at 01:04 AM
I might have expected you'd be howling given it's a full moon
Michael Byrne August 14, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Now Debbie pull in your fangs
David Gifford August 17, 2011 at 06:14 PM
They want to look like Detoit or Hamtramck? Well, they are on their way with empty buildings and crime rates increasing. My friend lives just north of town and had the wheels and tires stolen off or her plain jane 2010 Malibu. How does a grocery store downtown not promote a walkable community? With the expensive custom grocery store to the south and the small antiquated store 1 mile north, perhaps people want another option in the middle with lower prices. Plus I think a grocery store in a downtown promotes a more family friendly environment than bars, coffee shops and restaraunts. On the other hand, they could just raze the site and turn it into a park and large community garden.

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