To Lidl or not to Lidl
Post date: Oct 4, 2016 1:07:39 AM
Next week, the city council will move forward with a motion to support or not support a Detailed Site Plan for a Lidl Grocery Store to replace the Clarion Inn at the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Berwyn Road.
Like many of you, I am excited by the new development. I believe the Clarion Inn has lived a long and useful life in our city. The transformation into a grocery store is a welcomed change and creates a great walkable community amenity; the design is modern and attractive - for a grocery store; and the addition of a grocery store removes us from USDA's 'Food Desert' rating.
And while I think Lidl is a positive addition to Berwyn, I also weigh many of the same concerns you have all shared. The addition of a grocery store will impact traffic, however we must keep in mind that we're not going from zero to 60 traffic scenario, but more towards a 50 to 60 scenario. What I mean by this is that the existing traffic created by the Clarion Inn is already felt by our community and we will likely feel some increase to the traffic with the use as a grocery store, but it's not projected to hit us like a ton of bricks. Traffic volumes have been studied at this location and the current condition can support the projected use. Unfortunately, an additional right turn lane for traffic going westbound is not supported by the traffic study.
As a side note, we recently learned we had bad detection at the light at Berwyn Road which was causing a lot of the backups during morning rush hour. SHA has recently adjusted the timing on the light and will be looking into whether additional technology (i.e. cameras) might be needed to manage traffic more effectively. Please let me know if you feel an improvement or not...
From a city planning perspective, the proposed project deviates from the College Park Sector Plan in many, but two significant ways. First, the building should have 60% frontage on the Baltimore Avenue side of the site and the current orientation is to the north of the property and only about 30-40% is on Baltimore Ave. This is significant in the way that we envision the Baltimore Avenue coordinator looking and behaving in the future. It also creates the opportunity for the developer to create and entrance/exit on the west side of the property which is undesirable from a road design perspective (i.e. creating multiple location where cars can turn and disrupt the flow of road and sidewalk traffic and also intersect with future bike lanes), but it is also desirable from the traffic perspective because it would eliminate the stress placed on Berwyn Road. Second is the 'highest and best use' of the property according to the sector plan. The plan requires that new development have a minimum of two stories to maximize the opportunity for the site and future mixed uses. The developer has designed the building to appear to have multiple levels, but will only be a single story. This development does not meet the sector plan requirements for highest and best use. It is upon us to determine whether we want to accept these deviations or push back.
Additionally, when asked if the Applicant (Lidl) would be willing to agree to covenants that would open the store after peak AM traffic counts (8:00-8:20AM) and require that they stock the store like a Trader Joes vs. Aldi (i.e. warehousing style) the attorney declined to any such conditions that would impact the operation of the store...