PORT ANGELES — A new Grocery Outlet discount supermarket will open this spring across the street from the Safeway grocery store east of Port Angeles.
The Clallam County variance it needed to exceed square-footage limits means area residents should take a new look at potentially outdated land-use requirements for the urban growth area, said Mary Ellen Winborn, director of the Clallam County Department of Community Development.
Meridian, Idaho-based ESI Construction is building the $1.36 million, 16,000-square-foot supermarket within a busy, fenced area at the corner of North Bayview Avenue across from a Safeway-shopping mall complex and at the corner of U.S. Highway 101.
The maximum building size allowed is 10,000 square feet in the urban neighborhood commercial zone, located within the low-density, wetland-rich Lee’s Creek neighborhood.
A company spokesperson who said she was not authorized to be quoted about the project said Friday the new store will open in late April.
She said independent operators who will be named closer to the opening date will hire an estimated 25-35 employees.
Grocery Outlet, with more than 300 stores nationwide, calls itself an “extreme value retailer” of brand name groceries, “everything from fresh meat and produce to our natural and organic NOSH items,” according to the company’s website at groceryoutlet.com.
The Emeryville, Calif.-based company has an 18,000-square-foot store that opened in Sequim in 2011 and has 375 locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and Pennsylvania, an increase of about two dozen in 10 years.
“They really are trying to widen their horizons,” the spokesperson said.
The store’s facade advertises dairy, meat, organic and wine. Produce also will be sold.
According to building plans submitted to the DCD, its interior is minimal by some grocery store standards.
“It’s pretty basic,” county Chief Plans Examiner George Bailey said last week.
With an occupant load of 226 people, the building will contain two customer bathrooms, an employee break room, five checkout stands and no deli or meat-and-seafood preparation area.
“There are no onsite washing stations,” Bailey explained.
“They don’t have anything to prepare anything there.
“His and hers bathrooms and two drinking fountains, and that’s it for plumbing.”
The 60-space parking lot is smaller than the 68-space requirement for buildings larger than 10,000 square feet but meets retail-area requirements, Winborn said. The building includes warehousing and storage space.
The parking lot will include a a single space each for veterans and families.
Bailey said a 22-foot-high retaining wall for the project required moving several hundred dump-truck loads of fill to create a suitable flat area for the building.
“They wouldn’t have had the road access and parking unless they moved [the project] farther to he north,” Bailey said.
Compaction reports were required for numerous 8-12-inch layers of structural fill.
“It was quite a job,” Bailey said.
Interwest Construction Inc. of Sequim did all the site work, overseeing construction of the wall and plumbing, drainage, and fire and sewer lines.
The store is being built on 1.81 acres consisting of three parcels.
Grocery Outlet argued in its variance application that a maximum 10,000-square-foot building could have been built on each parcel, a less preferable outcome than one 16,000-square-foot building.
The company also said the nearby Highway 101 Les Schwab Tire Center is 16,000 square feet.
“A lot combination process that consolidates three contiguous parcels results in an overall reduction in the potential total area of buildings, paving and infrastructure at this location,” Grocery Outlet said in its variance request.
“The reduction is consistent with the goals and policies established in the comprehensive plan.”
In his Jan. 31, 2020 decision, county Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves of Seattle used Grocery Outlet’s hypothesis to justify approval for a building 60 percent larger than allowed.
“Land use polices for development in the Lee’s Creek neighborhood of the Port Angeles Urban Growth Area promote small-scale commercial development to preserve the residential character of the area,” Reeves said.
“Permitting a single, 16,000-square-foot building on three combined parcels, as opposed to three 10,000-square-foot buildings on separate parcels, serves these policies by reducing the intensity of use.”
Winborn said area stakeholders established the 10,000-square-foot limit for the urban growth area in 1991.
“Ten thousand was a number they threw out there,” she said last week.
“No one wanted big box stores on an urban corridor. As time has gone on, retail is not what it used to be.”
Developments such as the Safeway and and Les Schwab Tire Center have been approved by successfully working around that limit, Winborn said.
“People have had to do all kinds of variances or [conditional use permits] to eke out their businesses.
“It’s not working anymore.”
A stakeholder review of UGA residents and business owners could lead to opening the Highway 101 UGA to “drive-through” commercial possibilities and mixed uses that would draw more people to the only truly developable region between Port Angeles and Sequim, she suggested.
“Twenty-five years ago, we did not want big-box stores. What do we want now? In theory, you want to bring people to that area. You don’t want it to be a drive-through. You want people from town to say, ‘I want to go to a food court, or food trucks, [or] do we need to make room for municipal buildings?” Winborn said.
“It needs to have more of a sense of place than a commercial strip. Retail has changed. I don’t think a commercial strip is, anymore, just retail.”
She predicted Grocery Outlet would not compete with Safeway or the smaller Mt. Pleasant IGS grocery store-gas station less than a half-mile east at Mount Pleasant Road and Highway 101.
“We all want to be in the same place when we think about shopping, think about going into that area,” Winborn said.
“Really, it’s actually helping each other build a brand to go there to go shopping.
“They are not selling the same thing either. Everyone could complement each other.
“There are probably different people probably going to IGS, going for different reasons than go to Grocery Outlet.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.