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.