Approval for a new Aldi's grocery store is in the bag.
The Farmington Planning Commission on Sept. 12 approved a site plan and conditional use permit to build a 22,245-square-foot grocery store at the southeast intersection of Knutsen Drive and Dushane Parkway in Vermillion River Crossings development off Highway 50.
The German-owned grocery chain will be the second grocery store in town. Last year, the Iowa grocery chain Hy-Vee purchased land in Vermillion River Crossings and plan to build in the next few years.
The new Aldi's grocery store may be ready to open in the fall of 2018, but there is no official opening date or groundbreaking date.
"Generally speaking, with the site plan review the commission looks at designs, site setback, access, parking and landscaping and other impacts that would impact the surrounding properties," City Planning Manager Tony Wippler said.
Ryan Anderson, an acting engineer for Aldi, said he met with city staff last December to review a concept plan, preliminary site and layout plans.
"We went over the city code and I think it was this spring when we were given the go ahead to get started on this project and we surveyed in July," Anderson said.
The grocery store will give customers 96 parking spaces with four handicapped spaces, exceeding the city's minimum parking requirements.
The store will have two entry points: one entrance on the north side and one located near the bridge where the CDA senior apartment complex is located.
A few Rambling River Crossing senior CDA apartment residents shared concerns at the public hearing about public safety, noise and neighborly aesthetics related to the planned store. The residents were not happy about sharing a driveway with Aldi customers and semi-truck traffic.
"I am personally shocked to see the entrance come out of the south or southwest corner of this property that appears to be the access where the semis come in and the trucks coming in for the loading dock," said resident Jack Wiebke. "We have senior people using that access and we also have pedestrian traffic with our residents out walking on sidewalks in that area and walking their pets, and I don't see the safety concerns have been addressed adequately and up until 10 minutes ago we did not know about that access, but we are all welcoming the development."
In the past, residents have voiced a need for a stop light or traffic control to be installed on County Road 50 and Dushane Parkway that will attract more traffic when the two grocery stories are built.
"I can't imagine the traffic coming off of Dushane Parkway southbound and making a left into our development," said Julie Dolin. She said she looked forward to Aldi opening in Farmington because it was closer than stores in Rosemount or Apple Valley.
Anderson said semi-trucks will drive in off Knutsen from the north and travel through the site south toward the grocery store. Two food delivery trucks will come to Aldi's daily between 6-8 a.m. and another milk truck will arrive later.
"When the CDA was originally sited and developed, that was made fully aware of future commercial development and at that time that this would be a joint access with the commercial property to the north," Wippler said. "It shouldn't be a surprise to the CDA because that was specifically talked about during their conditional use permit and site plan, as well. That access was always contemplated as a shared joint access."
Planning Chair Dirk Rotty worked to bridge the communication gap. He said this was of no surprise to the CDA building owners, but maybe to the senior residents it was new information.
The commission thanked the seniors for showing up to speak.
"I am happy Aldi is coming and the entire area is zoned commercial," said Commissioner Steve Kuyper.
As Vermillion River Crossings keeps developing, Kuyper said there will be increased traffic.
"If a road does not handle the capacity, the county will look at it to help it on becoming safer," Kuyper said.
As a Farmington police officer, Kuyper said if people are using sidewalks and bicycling, they must ride carefully and walk safely.
Commissioner Lydia Bjorge asked when Aldis will open. The expected potential opening is around Thanksgiving 2018.
Commissioner Jerry Rich said even though there is residential housing at the senior complex, the area was always intended to become a commercial, retail area. He expressed concern with the way the Aldi's loading dock was oriented on property plans.
"All in all, it is a good move for Farmington and I might have some wishes, but this does not violate that area and it is not anticipated and we want to have traffic," Rich said.
Rich asked if the Aldi rep would inquire about the location of the loading dock to reduce noise mitigation and offer a better visual appeal.
County, CDA response
Sara Swenson, director of administration and communications with the CDA, said Vermillion River Crossings senior complex opened in 2012.
"We will revisit some of the safety points in the driveway and access area once the proposal is approved," Swenson said. The CDA will look to add a stop sign in the parking lot or perhaps install two stop signs on both sides as drivers enter the shared driveway from respective parking lots.
Kari Gill, deputy executive director who oversees housing development for the Dakota County CDA, said there was no information on residents' leases about the potential shared access, but since it is zoned to be commercial they were aware of future retail and development.
"We have a property manager who works with that building who will see about follow-up communication on that end," Gill said.
Other CDA properties in Dakota County have shared access roads.
"We care about the safety of our residents," Swenson said.
Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik said the city and county will talk when traffic grows and commercial development continues.
"It is usually driven by the city and is development driven and then the county will come to the table," Slavik said.
Added Rotty: "I am excited talking with residents and all agree Aldi is a great store and I am excited they are coming to this community, but I always enjoy residents coming with great questions that are well thought out."