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Neighbors chew up grocery store plan (UPDATE)

(Image courtesy of the city of Madison)

(Image courtesy of the city of Madison)

By Paul Snyder

Neighbors of a proposed Copps grocery store in Madison want the city to reject the project until developers scale back the design.

“We’re not against development,” said Madison resident John Vardallas. “We welcome the addition of a grocery store to this area. But this is too much for our community to bear.”

Appleton-based Rollie Winter & Associates Ltd. and Madison-based Vandewalle & Associates Inc. are collaborating on the proposal, which would put a 62,000-square-foot grocery store on a vacant site in the Grandview Commons neighborhood.

The neighborhood plan calls for stores to be no larger than 25,000 square feet. Area residents say they want developers to adhere to that limit.

The proposal “is for a big box, and it would tear this community into pieces,” said John Driscoll, another neighbor of the project. “If approval is granted, this is not about citizen opinion anymore. It’s not just about this neighborhood; it’s about these kinds of developments crossing existing ordinances.”

Representatives from Winter and Vandewalle did not return repeated calls for comment before deadline.

Alderwoman Lauren Cnare, who represents the area, said some local concerns are overstated.

“It’s strong reactions to a simple plan,” she said. “The reality is: There are no 25,000-square-foot stores that would fit in this kind of neighborhood. They’re built in highly urbanized areas.”

Cnare said project opponents who argue they want more development need to understand an anchor will spur growth.

“The developers have got to make money,” she said. “They’re not going to do it with a 25,000-square-foot store.”

The developers are scheduled to present the proposal Monday night to the Madison Plan Commission. Vardallas and Driscoll said many neighbors will be there to speak in opposition.

Cnare, who is a Plan Commission member, agreed 62,000 square feet is too big for the community, but she said the city should not hold the developers to the neighborhood plan requirements.

“Somewhere between the two numbers,” she said, “we’ve got to find the happy medium.”

Driscoll and Vardallas said they would be willing to consider a proposal for a smaller store that still exceeds the 25,000-square-foot requirement.

But even if developers scaled back the project to 30,000 or 40,000 square feet, Vardallas said, there might still be resistance.

“We’d like to keep to the original plan,” he said. “We’ll listen to other ideas, but that plan is what attracted a lot of people to this area who like a smaller, quieter place in the city. The proposal right now is totally unacceptable.”

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