Planners OK Aldi ‘Flagship’ Store Near Distribution Center In RPB

A “flagship” Aldi grocery store on State Road 7 in front of the company’s unfinished regional distribution center received glowing recommendations of approval from the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday, March 25.

Sitting as the Local Planning Agency, the commissioners recommended approval of a small-scale comprehensive plan amendment from industrial to commercial, as well as a zoning change for the currently vacant 2.3 acres at 1121 N. State Road 7, about a quarter-mile south of Okeechobee Blvd.

The site of the future store borders Regal Cinemas to the south and the Fox Property commercial district to the north.

“There are two parcels in the Aldi planned industrial development which they are looking to change to commercial land use from industrial land use in order to do one of their grocery stores,” Site Plan Coordinator Kevin Erwin explained. “It is our understanding that this is going to be their ‘flagship’ store. It’s going to be their show store that they bring all their executives to, and everybody who they want to show their stores to. It’s going to be a little bit bigger, I believe, and a little bit fancier than their normal Aldi stores.”

Erwin said the land use change meets the goals of the village’s comp plan objectives. “It just makes sense to have an Aldi grocery store right in front of the Aldi distribution center,” he said. “It works out very well for the store as far as restocking, as well as the residents of Royal Palm Beach.”

Last year, Aldi had planned to build a store in a shopping center further south on SR 7, but those plans fell through.

Erwin said the infrastructure and stormwater requirements for the new location were incorporated into the original design of the Aldi distribution center.

“All of those infrastructure improvements are being provided onsite to support not only the warehouse use, but future uses on the other vacant parcels,” he said. “When the warehouse came through, that was the biggest user. They made provisions to design the water retentions for all of the sites that would be developed in the future.”

The removal of invasive plant species has already been undertaken for the entire site. “There are some exotic invasives at the rear,” Erwin said. “It is my understanding that they are going to be removing those when they get the rear buffer in.”

The applicant submitted a market study showing that the property is capable of supporting a grocery store. However, Aldi officials did not speak at the hearing.

Commission Vice Chair Richard Becher agreed that the amendment and land use change made sense. “The state obviously is encouraging this type of situation,” he said. “I agree with it 100 percent.”

Commission Alternate Michael Axelberd also supported the project. “I think this is the perfect use for this land, and I have been in favor of using this land for this type of development for years,” he said.

Axelberd asked whether the main entrance was going to be at the existing entrance to the Regal Cinemas, and Erwin said the main entrance will be at Aldi Way, between the grocery store site and an existing self-storage facility.

“Eventually there is going to be potential for a [traffic] light there,” Erwin said. “I think it depends on FDOT when and how soon that will happen.”

Commission Chair Jackie Larson said she thought the location was ideal after negotiations at the former Toys ’R’ Us site did not go through.

Axelberd made a motion to recommend approval of the land use amendment, which carried 5-0. Commissioner Barbara Powell made a motion to approve the zoning change, which also carried 5-0.

The issue also came up at the Thursday, March 20 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council. The council approved its preliminary reading of the Aldi land use change.

Councilman David Swift asked why the application had not gone to the Planning & Zoning Commission first, and Village Manager Ray Liggins said it was a matter of timing, adding that the land use amendment would need to go to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and then return to the council a second time once it arrives back from Tallahassee with commentary.

Councilman Richard Valuntas made a motion to approve the application, which carried 5-0.