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Summit County Needs to Treat the New Whole Foods as More Than a Grocer

This week, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission will hear public comment on the Canyons’s Corner development, which is the parking lot across from Ruby Tuesday’s, near Walmart. The developer wants to put a new Whole Foods grocery and additional retail space on the property.

The Planning Commission will be hearing from the public and potentially deciding on whether this development should be built as proposed (or not). Personally, I love the idea of the greater selection a larger Whole Foods would offer. I also love the idea of their beer and wine offerings. According to Whole Foods press release (announced of course before this has even been approved… by accident I’m sure):

“This store will be the first Whole Foods Market in Utah to feature its own taproom with local beer and wine on tap, as well as a world-class resort pub menu with separate fast casual dining and pub seating inside the store.”

Yet there-in lies the problem. Is this a grocery store or a grocery store with a bar and restaurant inside it? There seems to be a lot of publicity from Whole Foods around a “taproom”, if it’s just a regular grocery store.

Why do I care? There are certain requirements that a bar has to have per our development code. First, if this store is really a bar, it has to have a conditional use permit issued by the County. This allows people to state their opinion on this specific piece. Let’s say you loved Whole Foods but were anti-alcohol, you could show up to the Planning Commission and debate the alcohol piece. There are some details that make the question of whether this requires a Conditional Use permit a little murky (i.e. was the original development agreement a specially planned area and does that somehow supercede zoning) but the average person would say that adding a bar should follow our zoning laws and a Conditional Use Permit would be required for their tap room. That would give the public a chance to voice any concerns about this portion of the business.

The second I reason I care is based on affordable housing requirements. It is likely that this agreement will require either affordable housing to be built or the developer will have to pay fees in lieu of building affordable housing. For bars and restaurants, one of the key components in calculating the amount of affordable housing required is almost 2 times as big for bars and restaurants versus commercial/retail.  Our County Planning office is currently treating this as a pure commercial facility, which means that the level of affordable housing required is understated. The County calculates the number of affordable housing units (or fees) required based on the square feet. In this case, the question is what percentage of space will be used for a restaurant, bar, taproom, chairs, storage, food prep, etc. versus the general grocery. Whatever that restaurant/bar space is should be “charged” at twice the Affordable Housing rate (per code).

While I still have questions about traffic and what moving Whole Foods will mean to traffic along the frontage road, I support it. The company obviously thinks there is a need and are willing to expand their operations and hire more people. That’s good for the Snyderville Basin. That said, they should be forced to follow the same rules as everyone else and account for their affordable housing like what they really are. In this case that’s a bar, restaurant, and grocery.


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