The Zoning Board of Appeals has dealt the Batavia Walgreens plan its first major blow.
The Zoning Board voted 4-3 against recommending Variance #9, one of eight variances discussed on April 4 at a public hearing for the new Batavia Walgreens. Variance #9 is for the number of parking stalls surrounding the proposed Walgreens site.
On April 4 the Zoning Board also voted in favor of recommending Variances #3,#4 and #6. on March 21.
The new Walgreens plan requires the city to agree to a series of exceptions, or variances, from the city Zoning Code. Batavia Enterprises is the developer for this project, and its officials submitted about 10 Variances for the Walgreens site.
“I wanted more information about the use of (the) lot,” said Plan Commission Chair Sue Peterson of her vote to deny Variance #9. “It has something still to do with the size of the building. I think it should move on to the higher bodies.”
Those “higher bodies” are the Community Development Committee and the full Batavia City Council.
The City Council will still review and vote on all the variances, including Variance #9. That one Variance, however, now needs more votes to pass.
A total of 10 out of 14 voting aldermen would need to approve Variance #9 as it’s currently written.
A couple people mentioned the size of the proposed Walgreens building as a concern throughout the April 4 public hearing. One of them was Jerry Swanson, Batavia’s Community Development director.
“We are spending a huge amount of time basically trying to figure out how to put too big a building on the site,” Swanson said during the April 4 hearing. “What’s sacrificed is … pedestrian and vehicular safety.”
The downtown Batavia Walgreens, which has been at its current location for 20 years, Walgreens wants additional space in Batavia Plaza to provide more services to its customers, including , fresh food and liquor sales.
Batavia Enterprises representatives left quickly after the vote on Variance #9. They have to try and develop a plan that can satisfy many parties, including Batavia residents.
“We’re more than interested to sit down with the city yet again,” said Batavia Enterprises Vice President Austin Dempsey during the April 4 hearing.
Who Voted Against Variance #9?
The vote on Variance #9 was as follows:Zoning Board Member Variance #9 Vote Sue Peterson No Sarah Harms Yes Joan Joseph Yes Tom LaLonde No Gene Schneider Yes Ed Weiss No Thomas Gosselin No
Variance #9 was to get an exception from a zoning code requirement to provide one off-street parking space per 250 sq ft (4 per 1000 sq. ft.) of a site’s gross floor area (see Zoning Code Section 4.204). Batavia Enterprises said the existing facilities do not meet this requirement.
“The variance will not constitute a grant of special privileges …because of similar ratios in adjacent lots,” Batavia Enterprises wrote in its variance request (see page 16 of this Feb. 17 city memo here).
The City of Batavia actually recommended Variance #9 for approval, so long as all the parking was made available to the public.
Batavia Enterprises agreed with this, but Zoning Board members were not satisfied with the change in the number of parking spots.
Batavia Enterprises provided an estimate that showed a net loss of 11 parking spaces. The existing amount of parking spaces was numbered at 195 spaces, and the proposed plan would provide 184 spaces.
The loss of parking spaces can be calculated with different sets of numbers, and the actual loss still needs to be determined with the upcoming design review, said Joel Strassman, the city’s Planning and Zoning officer, during the April 4 hearing.
Walgreens Project Includes Public Property
Batavia Enterprises needs to purchase public property to complete the Walgreens project as proposed and account for the lost parking spaces. This includes:
- The Wilson Street driveway access
- A portion of the First Street driveway
- A large part of the eastern area of Batavia Plaza, including the rows of parking spots located south of the previous Prairie Patch Cycles shop, that expands to where the mailboxes are located north of First Street. This portion is known as "Parcel Five" in a Land Title Survey.
The city has not received Batavia Enterprises’ formal proposal to acquire the property, Jerry Swanson said at the April 4 meeting.
“The application for the variances was signed off by the City Administrator (Bill McGrath) to go forward without a proposal to purchase land,” Swanson said. “The proposal would be considered concurrently at the Community Development Committee.”
In response to this, Dempsey said that Batavia Enterprises has been in talks with city leaders about making the purchase. He made a similar comment during the March 21 public hearing.
Batavia Enterprises also continues work with the city to add eight parallel parking stalls along First Street, Dempsey said.
So What Happens Next?
The Zoning Board and Plan Commission’s next meeting on the Walgreens proposal is tentatively scheduled for Wed., April 18.
The Community Development Committee this Tuesday, April 10, will receive an update on Walgreens variances and other aspects of the project. This is just an informational update—no votes will be taken at this time.
At some point the Plan Commission, which is the Zoning Board plus two other members, will also look at the conditional use permit for a Walgreens drive-through and a design review.
Discussion and recommendation of all these components are required before the Batavia City Council aldermen take final action on the Walgreens plan.
To read more news coverage of the Walgreens project, including residents' support and objections, .