Royal Palm Council Moves Aldi Grocery Store Forward

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council gave final approval Thursday, May 15 to rezoning and land use changes so Aldi can build its flagship grocery store on approximately 2.25 acres on the west side of State Road 7, just south of Okeechobee Blvd.

The council also gave site plan and architectural approval for the 17,018-square-foot grocery store after discussion of the need for a deceleration lane on SR 7. Access will be provided at three points, including one on SR 7.

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval last month but advised that the council consider a deceleration lane at the SR 7 entrance.

Councilman Fred Pinto asked about the lane, and Planning & Zoning Administrator Bradford O’Brien said it had not been required by the Florida Department of Transportation but that the council could request it.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said that the entrance did not meet the projection of 75 turns per hour to warrant a deceleration lane, although every other right turn on SR 7 has a deceleration lane.

Aldi representative Jeff Williams said he supported further research into the lane as a safety issue. “If there is any safety issue, we want to alleviate it and make it safe for the customers, the neighborhood and our employees,” Williams said. “Our request would be to allow FDOT to make that decision.”

Pinto said he would not want to make the deceleration lane a condition of approval, and Williams suggested that they put the application in as is and ask FDOT if the lane is warranted.

Williams said the additional cost would be an estimated $100,000, which would require him to resubmit the site plan through Aldi.

“I would have to resubmit it because it’s a major cost and a major change to our site plan,” he said. “It would also have additional implications on our time frame.”

Pinto said his concern is for the safety of the residents, but at the same time he did not want to hold up the project.

“There’s nothing that says it has to be done day one when you open your doors,” Pinto said. “If it’s not a day-one requirement, your project can proceed as it is, and this can be done after the fact.”

Liggins agreed that the project could be done without having the deceleration lane immediately, but Williams said his hesitation would be if they had a grand opening and then had to tear up the frontage again to build the deceleration lane. He added that there is also the possibility of installing a traffic light at that intersection, and that a deceleration lane could impede their ability to get the signal.

Liggins said the light is not warranted currently, but might be when the 53 acres across the street is developed, which he said is unlikely in the next several years.

Councilman Richard Valuntas made a motion to approve the application, with the understanding that a traffic light would prevail over a deceleration lane, which carried 5-0.

The council also gave final approval of the ordinance to rezone the property from industrial to commercial. Vice Mayor David Swift made that motion, which also carried 5-0.

Council members also approved a resolution by Aldi asking for master plan approval to remove the two parcels from the Aldi planned industrial development where its regional warehouse is under construction. O’Brien said the grocery store will be an independent development but will remain within the property owners’ association for joint site maintenance. Pinto made a motion to approve the resolution, which passed unanimously.

Finally, the council approved two variances required by the project.

One variance allows a 15.78-foot rear setback for the site where a 30-foot setback is normally required. O’Brien said the variance is for a small portion of the rear of the building, where the rest of the clearance is 38 feet, which exceeds the minimum requirement. He also noted that the setback faces the Aldi regional distribution center.

O’Brien said the applicant believes the setback is necessary to maximize the development of the site, and there is adequate separation from any other user because the portion of the reduced setback would have heavy landscaping and would be adjacent to a roadway.

Swift said he looked at the application when it went before the zoning commission and deemed it a minor request. He made a motion to approve it, which carried 5-0.

The council also approved a variance to permit two wall signs fronting the private entry road to the north, where the code allows only one sign, and a variance to allow two cabinet wall signs to be 44.61 square feet. The code prohibits cabinet wall signs of more than 10 square feet.

One of the signs would say “Food Market,” while the other would be the Aldi logo. O’Brien said the total size of the two wall signs would be 68.2 square feet.

The applicant contended that the building would be too far away from SR 7 for a 10-square-foot sign to be visible. O’Brien pointed out that the village has approved signs on the side of other buildings that exceeded the maximum size allowed in the code, including the Nissan, Toyota and Mazda signs on Southern Blvd.

Swift made a motion to approve the variance, which carried 5-0.