Loxahatchee Groves City Council approved a change on Tuesday, May 3 that will allow an AutoZone auto parts store to replace a planned Chase Bank in the downtown Groves parcel at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and road B.
Also at the meeting, council received an update from the developer of the overall Groves town center project and agreed to take over the construction of a long-delayed canal crossing designed to provide access to equestrian trails. .
The 8-acre Pod A in downtown Groves has already won site plan approval for a Wawa gas station and convenience store, an Aldi grocery store and a Chase Bank branch. The Aldi is the only part already completed.
“Due to COVID-19, Chase Bank decided to withdraw its development efforts, so my client lost Chase as a developer there,” said Matt Scott, plaintiff’s zoning attorney. “They looked for another developer who would like to be there, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”
The application replaces a 3,470 square foot bank with a 7,381 square foot AutoZone store. It would be in the middle of the Wawa on the corner and the existing Aldi store. The AutoZone is designed as a rectangle, with the short end facing Southern Blvd., and most of the store running north to south. It was designed to meet the city’s Rural Vista guidelines.
“We are here for authorized use,” Scott noted. “AutoZone is specifically a use that your code says is allowed here.”
Although the application increases the area allocated to Module A, it will not exceed the agreed floor area ratio (FAR) nor the total area of the larger project.
Scott noted that while AutoZone sells auto parts, they don’t do major auto repairs on the spot. However, several council members were concerned that customers would make their repairs on the spot after purchasing items.
“The AutoZone windshield wiper change doesn’t concern me,” Councilor Phillis Maniglia said. “What worries me is the guy changing his starter in the parking lot or changing his oil in the parking lot. Many of these parking lots turn into oily, chunky places. What are we doing to prevent this from happening?
Scott said the plaintiff would agree to a condition prohibiting oil changes and major car repairs on site, as well as posting signs to prohibit it.
“It’s not an employee problem, it’s a customer problem,” he said. “I think the signage will work.”
Mayor Robert Shorr felt the large red AutoZone sign seemed too big, although a sign gap was not on the agenda overnight.
“People don’t drive down the road looking for an auto parts store. They already know where they are going,” he said. “I would like you to consider another option before returning with a sign gap.”
Scott said he would convey this concern to his client.
During public comment, resident Paul Coleman said via email that there were already too many auto parts stores in the general area.
Resident Nina Corning objected to granting any additional space on the site.
“When we increase buildings, we increase impervious land. To keep the terrain as permeable as possible, you shouldn’t increase the size of the building,” she said. “You are going to have a lot of light shining on the community. It shouldn’t even happen, and it certainly shouldn’t increase. »
Councilor Marianne Miles moved a motion to approve the change to the site plan, which passed 4-1 with Maniglia dissenting.
Also during the meeting, the board heard an update from Dan Zimmer representing Groves Town Center.
Zimmer noted that there has been progress on the delayed infrastructure permit, which has now been approved. H&J Construction will carry out the earthworks, while the exotics have already been removed by Ecotone Services.
Zimmer noted that it will be necessary to temporarily close the horse trail that spans the property due to heavy trucks and the installation and movement of landscaping. Part of the trail is expected to be closed for five months. Once the work is complete, the trail will be remediated and reopened, Zimmer said.
Council members asked if the closure could be expedited. They also stressed the need to ensure it is open again before the start of the next riding season on November 1.
As the infrastructure works are completed, much of the fill will be removed from the site. Council members asked if the fill could be donated to the city rather than hauled away. Public Works Director Larry Peters said the city could use it. Zimmer said he would try to resolve this issue with contractor H&J Construction.
Zimmer said the recently approved permit will allow work to begin on the delayed Pod B projects, just east of the existing Aldi store. This includes a dental practice and a Culver restaurant.
Miles noted that there was still a problem with barbed wire near part of the horse trail, which the council had previously called for to be removed.
“When I saw this on the agenda, that it hadn’t been deleted yet, I didn’t like it,” Miles said. “It’s a matter of security. Anyway, remove the barbed wire and don’t let it stay there for us to come back, and it hasn’t been removed yet.
Zimmer promised to have the barbed wire removed. The posts will be left to be used for future barrier material once it is chosen.
On a related note, council has agreed to resume construction of the delayed equestrian bridge project designed to open up access to the world’s largest network of equestrian trails. The promoter still has several years to complete this project, but the city wanted it to be finished sooner.
Peters was asked to get quotes to install a culvert, as opposed to a bridge, at C Road and Collecting Canal. This would get the job done faster and cheaper.
Zimmer agreed to the change and will donate $126,459 to the city to complete the project. Council unanimously agreed to take over this part of the project from the developer.
In other business, council discussed its recruitment process to replace City Manager Jamie Titcomb, who plans to step down in June.
Asked by City Attorney Elizabeth Lenihan if they wanted to promote quickly from within or take a slightly longer route to seek candidates, the council agreed to seek candidates, but set a tight deadline of May 24. for nominations.
Candidates will be discussed at the June 7 board meeting, and June 21 has been set as a possible interview date for candidates. Since Titcomb’s last day is June 9, the village’s assistant director, Francine Ramaglia, is expected to step in to serve as interim manager.