Downtown grocery coming to Auburn

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2006
Downtown Auburn will have a new grocery store after Auburn City Council approved one during its Tuesday night meeting.

By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

Auburn City Council was busy Tuesday night approving a new grocery store for South Gay Street, extending the student housing moratorium and approving a new restaurant near downtown Auburn. 

Downtown Grocery:

The council approved a resolution for conditional use approval for a grocery store on South Gay Street. 

Griswold asked if the nearby businesses had shown any reaction to the proposal. Planning Director Forrest Cotton said that the city had received no feedback, but that the businesses had been notified. 

The city’s e-packet specified that the business will use 28,864 square feet for the grocery store and 5,495 square feet for retail.

Although parking is not required in this zone, the store proposed 141 parking spaces, the e-packet said. 

Although the council did not specify this, nor did the city’s e-packet, included drawings and layouts named the grocery store as a Publix. 

Student Housing Moratorium:

The Auburn City Council voted to extend the current student housing moratorium through Dec. 23. 

The council originally put the moratorium in place in February and extended it on May 19. 

The moratorium places a hold on new student housing developments, private dormitories and academic detached dwelling units in the city of Auburn. 

Originally, the moratorium was set to give the city of Auburn staff time to develop a plan for the city moving forward to reduce the amount of student housing. 

The moratorium has now been extended twice. 

Kelley Griswold, Ward 2, asked the council if it could set the moratorium to an indefinite time period, instead of continually extending it. 

City Manager Jim Buston said that the council should keep an end date in mind, but that it could end the moratorium before that specific date if it so chose. 

The council could also extend it again, if it wanted, Buston said. 

“We hope that won’t have to be,” he said. “As you see in your packet, we do have some time frames for bringing things to you, at least time frames for going to the planning commission then coming to you.”

Zoning Ordinance Changes will be discussed by the planning commission on Sept. 10 and public hearings will be held. Following this, the zoning changes will be introduced to the city council.

“I think it’s in all of our best interest, I think we all want to get this settled, talked about, debated and move on from this when we can and that was the thought when we started this moratorium in the winter, is to give the community the answers that they need so the city of Auburn can move on,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. 

Guthrie’s:

The council approved a resolution for conditional use approval for a Guthrie’s Restaurant on North College Street. 

The approval did not come easily, there was a lot of discussion from both council members and members of the public. 

The property is located in the Urban Core District, but Guthrie’s is proposing a drive-through. This had council members and two members of the public concerned. 

“I just wanted to say that I hope the council considers the negative impacts of additional road service uses in the urban districts,” said Stone Ray, from Birmingham. “And I ask that the council please see this request as a decision baed on principal. The principal that we already understand road service uses, particular drive through restaurants, are problematic in urban districts and against the goal that we have established in the downtown masterplan.”

Ray said he believes that a drive-through is taking a step backward in the progress downtown Auburn has made. 

“I’m very worried about introducing another auto-focused development so close to where we are now going to have hundreds and hundreds of new downtown residents who are going to be walking around that area, walking to campus in the next year or two,” said Scott Berson, Auburn resident. “Considering that the downtown master plan does not encourage drive-throughs in this area.”

One of the lot owners, however, said he supported the resolution.

“My sister and I own two of the three lots involved in this lease arrangement with Guthrie’s,” said Mark Meagher, one of the lot owners. “This property has been in our family for five generations, we would like it to continue that into a sixth generation. That is our objective so I’m urging you tonight to pass this resolution.”

Previously on the property, 200 North College Street, was the Sani-Freeze and before that, The Doll House. 

“I once heard Dr. Charles Hendrix describe Auburn as a combination of Mayberry and Camelot and I think that description fits my memories of Auburn perfectly,” he said. “But last week’s planning committee meeting, I heard one committee member refer to Auburn as an urban core. Somehow, I cannot see Auburn ever being fondly remembered as the loveliest urban core on the plains.”

Parker Lewis, who is representing Guthrie’s, said that because the building already had a drive-through installed, it makes sense for this property to continue as a drive-through. 

“I think it’s important to note here that this store is going to be Guthrie’s flagship store,” Lewis said. “It is in the urban core. We’re absolutely going to increase and improve pedestrian access to this site. We’re going to have outdoor seating, we’re going to have screening of the parking lot. This use is not so much to bring a bunch of cars downtown, it’s simply a matter of trying to capture the cars that are already downtown.”

Lewis said the business expects that 90 percent of customers will be pedestrians, not vehicle customers. 

Although the vote was close, the resolution was approved. 

Other Business: 

  • The council approved a resolution for an indoor recreation use for Donahue Crossing Axe Throwing at 1667 Shut Jordan Parkway. 
  • The council adopt4ed the transportation plan as part of the Rebuild Alabama Act.  

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