City opts to vacate alley behind Marvel Grocery; Haugen objects
By ROBERT WHALE
Auburn Reporter News reporter
August 8, 2008 · Updated 11:20 AM
The alley south of West Main between A Street Southwest and South Division Street provides access to the parking lots serving the Sunbreak Cafe and Marvel Grocery and is a convenient cut-through.
But as far the Stratford Company is concerned that alley runs right through their plans for the block west of City Hall, a block they now own completely – save the Sunbreak Cafe – thanks to a recent land transfer with the city.
On Monday evening, Council members voted to give up all public control of the alley, a process called vacation.
Auburn Architect Allen Keimig of Keimig Associates, representing the owners of Marvel Grocery, spoke against this action. If the city followed through, Keimig said the effect would be to cut access to the deli’s back parking and the back of that store, including the loading area.
While Stratford has an option to buy the Marvel building, Keimig said, its owners have not yet signed anything.
“This action will constitute a hardship to his business,” Keimig said.
Keimig added that there might be cross drainage and access easements between that alley and Marvel Grocery, constituting encumbrances on the title.
Auburn Public Works Director Dennis Dowdy said the Marvel Grocery could continue to use the alley for the time being.
“In all likelihood, nothing will happen to that parcel until (Stratford’s) civil plans come forward and he has least at a minimum a grading permit for those properties, so at that point in time we’ll begin to address those kinds of things,” Dowdy said.
Stratford’s plans for the north half of the block call for retail-residential mix. Preliminary ideas for the south half include apartments.
A right-of-way vacation is required whenever the city removes public interest in a city right-of-way or easement and relinquishes it to the abutting property. This action is taken by city ordinance if the right-of-way is considered useless for transportation purposes and is determined to be beneficial to the public.
Councilwoman Lynn Norman asked if for some reason the owner of Marvel Grocery decides not to sell to Stratford and development goes on around them, whether they would denied access to the back of the building or any of the access they have now.
Mayor Pete Lewis responded that for any development to take place in this scenario, it would have to include the Marvel building.
The lone no vote came from Councilwoman Virginia Haugen.
“I have a long history with alleys in Auburn; I happen to like ’em, I use ’em,” Haugen said, noting that she sometimes uses alleys so she doesn’t have to make left-hand turns against traffic and can get to businesses without going blocks out of her way.
“I think Auburn has always had alleys for a reason. I want to keep alleys, I like alleys, so I will be voting no,” Haugen said.
Robert Whale can be reached at 253-833-0218, ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Auburn Reporter News reporter Robert Whale at email@example.com or 253-833-0218, ext. 5052.