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Victor Thinks Outside of the (Big) Box

Victor Planning & Zoning Commission asks Broulim’s for revised plans that are more downtown-friendly 

Last night, the Victor Planning & Zoning Commission heard an official request from Broulim’s Markets (“Broulim’s”) to up-zone several parcels comprising 10 acres on the north end of downtown Victor from Commercial Corridor (CC) and Residential Multi-Family-2 (RM2) to Commercial Heavy (CH).

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Proposed Broulim’s location shown above in blue

Presently, traditional commercial strip development is not allowed in either of these zones. As such, Broulim’s is seeking CH zoning to develop the site similarly to their existing grocery store and appurtenant retail uses in downtown Driggs. Here is the Victor planning staff’s report.

Pictured below is our rendering of the site plan as presently proposed by Broulim’s. It is a traditional commercial strip design with a 2.9-acre parking lot as the main frontage presentation and approximately 40,000SF of retail at the rear and side of the property.

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Our rendering of Broulim’s proposed site plan

Early in the hearing, it was apparent that this zone change request – and the strip mall site design it would permit – was not sitting well with the P&Z. During the applicant’s testimony, Broulim’s representative Mark Oswald stated that the strip commercial site design was necessary in order to accommodate parking, loading, waste storage, and other grocery store functions. Oswald emphasized that the 2.9-acre, 243-space parking lot was necessary to address peak parking functions as well as trailers, RVs, and other oversize vehicles.

The public comment: 

Then came time for public comment.  Prior to this hearing, our staff conducted a site analysis to determine if the proposed grocery store and appurtenant uses could be configured in a small-scale, pedestrian-friendly fashion. As you can see in our rendering below, it absolutely possible to have a Broulim’s grocery store in Victor that still feels “small town” and pedestrian-friendly.

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Our rendering of an alternative site plan for the CC zone

In our rendering of an alternative site plan design for the CC zone, buildings are brought closer to the street, breaking up the parking lot. This creates a more walkable retail plaza, and can serve as “connective tissue” to higher density residential areas in NE Victor, such as Sage Hen condos. It also reduces stormwater runoff, parking lot “glare”,  and the general strip mall appearance.

We also studied grocery store developments in communities such as Ketchum and Hailey, and found that small-scale, pedestrian-friendly site design was not only possible, but the norm in other mountain town communities here in Idaho that are similar Victor.

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Albertsons in Hailey, ID

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Village Market in Ketchum, ID

We summarized the City of Victor’s recent journeys through Envision Victor, the Comprehensive Plan, and this year’s public survey fielded by the city in anticipation of its new land use code. Through each of these exercises, it was abundantly clear that Victor residents value their small-town character, and disfavored big-box, strip-mall type development. We then offered the findings from our own site analysis and the experience of other communities.

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Our executive director Shawn Hill presents alternative design ideas to Victor P&Z

Several other members of the public also offered comment – all of which was emphatically against the application as presented. Some felt that the rezone should not be entertained at all, that Victor should stick to its original goal of encouraging development in the downtown core. Others felt that if any rezone were to be considered, it should be limited to Commercial Corridor zoning, which requires buildings to be located near the street and parking lots to be located at the side or rear of proposed buildings (as shown in our rendering above).

After public comment, Oswald graciously acknowledged public comment, but restated Broulim’s preference to proceed with the site design as planned. He expressed a willingness to explore changes to the site design but also reiterated Broulim’s desire for a more traditional commercial strip layout.

The deliberation

In the P&Z’s deliberation, many of the public’s concerns were echoed by the commissioners. Most P&Z members felt that Broulim’s should be given the chance to revise their proposal to emulate the design considerations put forth by Valley Advocates and other members of the public.

What happens next?

The P&Z continued the hearing to a date uncertain in order to give Broulim’s time to prepare a revised site plan and to gather more public comment. We’ll let you know when the hearing is rescheduled, and any opportunities to provide input.

From our perspective, after all the public comment and the P&Z deliberation, it is clear that there are two choices before the City: 1) Broulim’s can submit a revised proposal for City approval that is more consistent with the vision and values of Victor residents, or 2) the City can reject the rezone proposal altogether for noncompliance with its plan for growth.

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