Green Park aldermen again weigh Fresh Thyme store

Ex-planning panel member opposes Fresh Thyme plan

Above, Fresh Thyme's rendering of the original Green Park store proposal.

Above, Fresh Thyme’s rendering of the original Green Park store proposal.

By Mike Anthony

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market representatives hope the third time will be the charm when the Green Park Board of Aldermen considers their revised proposal to build a store in the city.

Aldermen twice have rejected Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a store at the site of the former Tesson Ferry Branch County Library, 9920 Lin Ferry Drive.

Aldermen voted 4-2 in October to re-ject Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a 28,900-square-foot store on the 2.38-acre site of the library, which closed in November. Ward 1 Aldermen Carol Ham-ilton and Michael Broughton, Ward 2 Alderman James Jones Jr. and Ward 3 Alderman Joe Monteleone were opposed to Fresh Thyme’s proposal. Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston and board President Fred Baras of Ward 3 voted in favor.

Hamilton, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, joined the rest of the panel on Oct. 7 in voting to recommend approval of the preliminary site plan.

Aldermen rejected a revised proposal for a 28,650-square-foot store with the same 4-2 vote in November.

In both votes to reject Fresh Thyme’s proposal, aldermen cited concerns about the size of the building, variances requested for the building, additional traffic and the number of parking spaces.

Last week, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a revised development plan submitted by Fresh Thyme. Hamilton and commission member Robert Nikolai were absent from the Jan. 8 meeting.

The Board of Aldermen will conduct a public hearing on Fresh Thyme’s proposal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, at City Hall, 11100 Mueller Road, Suite 5.

Among the changes to Fresh Thyme’s proposal are:

• The size of the building has been re-duced to 28,000 square feet.

• The building architecture has been revised to keep the structure within the maximum height allowed under city code.

• The building has been moved outside of the Lindbergh Boulevard setback to comply with the city’s 30-foot required setback.

• The parking setback along Lin Ferry Drive has been increased to 6 feet — previously it was 0 feet.

• The parking lot has been increased to 134 spaces. The city’s zoning code re-quires 188 parking spaces. Fresh Thyme originally proposed 131 spaces, then in-creased the number to 133 spaces.

In recommending approval of Fresh Thyme’s proposal last week, the commission agreed with the conditions requested in a statement of need, including the number of parking spaces, the parking setback along Lin Ferry, site coverage and ground signage.

Regarding site coverage, the city’s zoning code allows 80 percent site coverage, and Fresh Thyme originally proposed roughly 86 percent. The revised proposal calls for 85 percent, including 7,344 square feet of permeable pavers that “will contribute to improved water quality and runoff rates, and create a gross previous site coverage in excess of the 20 percent requirement.”

City code allows either one ground sign or one pole sign. Fresh Thyme proposes one pole sign and one ground sign.

The Board of Aldermen’s previous rejections of Fresh Thyme’s proposal came over the objections of three Lin Ferry Drive property owners. Ron Emmenegger of the Lin Ferry Investment Group, Stan Erb of the Hilvin Investment Corp. and Carol Gapsch of Gapsch Bros. Inc. have all spoken in favor of Fresh Thyme.

Last week, Emmenegger and Erb reiterated their support for the Fresh Thyme store. Also speaking in favor of the proposal was Tamara Musgrove, representing Gapsch Bros.

Speaking against the proposal was former Planning and Zoning Commission member Jonathan Byrd. Byrd, who served on the commission in October when the panel considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal, recused himself from the discussion and vote.

But when the Board of Aldermen considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal later that month, he voiced his opposition to it. He told aldermen Oct. 19 that he opposed the store for several reasons, including setbacks, lack of parking, traffic concerns and “market saturation.”

Byrd also contended Oct. 19 that Fresh Thyme is “not friendly to the labor and trade unions in this town. They have decided to build these stores without skilled workers — local workers. They bring workers from out of state to build these stores … We have a rat coming into this town. I don’t approve of this, so not only the grocery workers in this town, but we have the building-trade workers also. So I disapprove of this company coming in …”

Byrd, who works as an organizer with Meatcutters’ Local 88 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, resigned from the Planning and Zoning Commission in early December.

In a Dec. 7 email to the city, Byrd wrote, “Due to a conflict of interest I, Jonathan Byrd, give notice of my resignation from the Planning and Zoning board of Green Park.”

Last week, Byrd reiterated his opposition to the proposed store, contending the structure still is too large for the site and citing the lack of a traffic impact study.

“… The intersections of Lin Ferry and Lindbergh and the intersections of Lin Ferry and Tesson Ferry are very dangerous intersections, and there was no impact study done on those intersections,” he said, noting that a letter from a traffic consultant only addressed Lin Ferry Drive.

“… Those guys have had four months to address those intersections. Why not do an impact study on those intersections is what we’ve been saying the whole time,” Byrd said. “So with that being said, I think it’s pretty irresponsible for you guys to pass this without some kind of impact study on those intersections to see what we’re dealing with …”

But speakers in favor of the proposal, including Emmenegger, discounted Byrd’s concerns about traffic.

“… The traffic, I don’t understand, it’s been there forever …,” he said. “The good thing is, we’ve got other exits we can go to — Tesson Ferry if they have to and you can use the light either way. Or we can go back to Lindbergh. So I think that particular thought, I really think doesn’t carry a whole lot of water — at least it doesn’t with me …”

Of Fresh Thyme’s proposal, Emmenegger said, “I think it’s the highest and best use that I can see for that property the way it’s situated and so on … We’re for it and I would hope that the city could see their way to let them become a good citizen for us …”