Hy-Vee looks to build in Spring Lake Park

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Wheels are in motion for a Hy-Vee grocery store and convenience store to come to Spring Lake Park.

The Spring Lake Park Planning Commission held a public hearing July 24 on a planned unit development and preliminary plat approval for a Hy-Vee at the northwest corner of 81st Avenue Northeast and Central Avenue along Highway 65.

City-owned Central Park Liquor occupies a portion of the site, and the remaining land is undeveloped. It was cleared of brush after the City Council denied applications that would allow high-density residential development on the site.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved both items. Planning Commission Chairperson Lisa Dircks and Commissioner Vince Smith were absent from the meeting.

Hy-Vee intends to build a 76,000-square-foot grocery store, which is slightly smaller than its other stores that have recently been built in the Twin Cities metro.

The store would be located on the northern part of the site with a 8,700-square-foot convenience store and coffee shop located roughly where Central Park Liquor sits today.

The city is currently in negotiations with Hy-Vee for the Central Park Liquor store property, and if a sale goes through, the city would exit municipal liquor, according to City Administrator Dan Buchholtz.

Spring Lake Park resident and Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association Executive Director Paul Kaspszak voiced his strong opposition to the end of municipal liquor in the city during the public hearing.

“We are strongly opposed to the city discontinuing our municipal liquor operation and consequently issuing a full liquor license to Hy-Vee,” he said. “We believe the Central Park Liquor operations is extremely important to the viability of our community.”

While the store has been “financially underperforming” in recent years, profits have improved under new management, Kaspszak said.

Brian Hachey took over as manager one year ago.

Kaspszak said a Hy-Vee would be an asset in the community, but urged the city to run a municipal liquor store alongside the grocery store, negotiating with the chain as Robbinsdale recently did.

Other residents voiced concerns about traffic on 81st Avenue.

“Traffic out here is horrible,” Karen Eggert said. “I’m not sure what you’re going to do about that.”

A traffic study is being conducted, and Phil Hoey, with Hy-Vee, said the company shares residents’ concerns.

“If the access doesn’t work, customers aren’t going to use this store,” he said.

Hy-Vee is working with the city and county to find solutions.

“It’s just going to take some reconfiguring of this intersection,” Hoey said.

Drainage was another of residents’ worries.

“If we replay what happened in Fridley when they were going to put in Wal-Mart, the people had the best of intents to do well with the existing water features and lots of commitments were made,” Jill Kaspszak said. “That was a cluster, excuse my language. It cost everybody a lot of money, ruined a lot of things.”

Buchholtz told residents drainage is something the city takes very seriously.

Hy-Vee is submitting drainage plans to the Rice Creek Watershed District.

“They have extremely strict standards,” Buchholtz said. “The Wal-Mart project is in a different watershed district.”

Plans show one small wetland area to be removed, but two larger wetlands will remain intact, according to Clark Wickland, civil engineer with Alliant Engineering.

Despite concerns, residents said that they would be pleased to see a grocery store come to Spring Lake Park.

James Lund, of Savage, owns apartments on Central Avenue that front the proposed site.

“It’s a real ideal place for a grocery store,” he said. “It would be super convenient for all the people close by.”

City Planner Phil Carlson recommended the Planning Commission approve the planned unit development with a number of conditions, including that Hy-Vee consider revising parking to provide additional setback to Highway 65 with additional landscaping.

Currently, plans include 455 parking spaces, while code standards require 467.

Carlson believes the 455 spaces will be “more than adequate” with cross sharing between the grocery store and convenience store, he said.

Setbacks are also less than what is normally required in some areas, but Carlson called it an “acceptable relaxation … in order to allow this scale of development on this property.”

One area of concern is the setback to Highway 65 where proposed landscaping encroaches on the Minnesota Department of Transportation right of way.

Hy-Vee will consider narrowing one of its drive aisles to increase that setback, but it is imperative that the store not lose parking spaces, Hoey said.

“We don’t fully park our stores three times a year like most other retailers do. We fully park our stores three or four times a week,” he said.

The City Council will take up the matter later this month unless there are unexpected delays, Buchholtz said.