Kurt Charland, civil site engineer for Aldi, shows the site plan for an Aldi store to the Van Buren Zoning/Planning Board at its Aug. 9 meeting. (Photo by Ashley M. Casey)
By Ashley M. Casey
Residents of Van Buren may be able to do their grocery shopping at Aldi if developers and the town’s zoning/planning board can come to an agreement over the proposed store’s parking lot.
At the Aug. 9 ZPB meeting, Aldi representatives presented their site plan for an 18,850-square-foot store adjacent to Dunkin’ Donuts and the Family Dollar on Downer Street. Aldi’s plan includes 86 parking spaces, but the ZPB would like to see more green space at the front of the property.
ZPB member James Virginia suggested flipping the site plan over so the majority of the parking would fall behind the store, in the southwest corner of the parcel.
“I think it makes the site a lot more attractive, leaving room for green space up front,” Virginia said.
Virginia said the town’s long-term plan for Downer Street is to move parking back to make room for green areas and separate sidewalks from parking lots.
“No other development on this corridor has done that — they all have parking frontage. That takes all your buildings out of alignment,” said Kurt Charland, project manager for Bergmann Associates. Charland is the civil site engineer for Aldi.
ZPB Chair Tony Geiss questioned Aldi’s placement of handicapped parking spaces and noted that Aldi’s site plan exceeds the required number of parking spaces by more than 20 spots.
“I don’t recall there being a maximum,” Charland said.
The ZPB suggested reducing the parking lot to 71 spaces and adding trees to separate the sidewalk from the parking lot.
“Feasibly speaking, that probably won’t work for Aldi,” said Lewis Kipling, director for real estate at Aldi. “We have to have 80 to 85 [spaces] — that’s a requirement.”
Kipling said the parking requirement is Aldi’s policy, but Geiss said he had never seen a full Aldi parking lot at the stores he’s visited in Camillus and North Syracuse.
ZPB member James Schanzenbach said Aldi’s current parking lot proposal could create problems with snow removal.
“I would think that Aldi would see pushing snow up to a curb would be more of a liability than pushing it up to a green space,” Schanzenbach said, adding that Aldi could lose even more parking spots under piles of snow.
The ZPB suggested moving the entire site back farther to make room for green space, but Charland said that would disturb the woods in the rear of the site, thereby destroying rather than protecting natural elements.
Charland asked the board what their parameters for a green barrier would be, and Geiss said he’d like to see a 20-foot green area.
“You demanded a dimension — be careful what you ask for,” Geiss said.
Despite the back and forth, Aldi will revise and re-submit the site plan to the ZPB by Aug. 17 so the board can refer it to the Onondaga County Planning Board. Charland said Aldi hopes to break ground by October.
“If Aldi’s going to turn around and walk, I think we should try to meet in the middle,” Virginia said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.