Location for supermarket super controversial

John Mullen/ Islander contributor
Posted 7/13/17

ORANGE BEACH – Location, location, location. And a bad one at that.

Everybody seems to want Rouse’s to open a new store in Orange Beach. Just not in the southeast corner of Canal Road and …

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Location for supermarket super controversial


ORANGE BEACH – Location, location, location. And a bad one at that.

Everybody seems to want Rouse’s to open a new store in Orange Beach. Just not in the southeast corner of Canal Road and Alabama 161.

“Pass the word on that we would love to have them in a different spot,” Planning Commission Chairman Robert Stuart said told Rouse’s representative, Phillip Burton. “Bring it. We want your sushi, we want your boudin, we want it all.”

The unlikely building of a Rouse’s at the proposed location provided the liveliest banter during a busy July 10 meeting.

Almost secondarily, the agenda included a new 26-story Phoenix building by Brett Robinson. It is planned for an empty lot between Tidewater condominiums and DoubleTree by Hilton, formerly the Island House Hotel.

Also presented were a rezoning request for the former Reynolds concrete site with an eye toward a mixed-use development, final plat approval for an 88-townhome project in East Orange Beach called Spyglass and a 216-unit micro efficiency apartment complex behind Baldwin EMC off the Foley Beach Express.

The Reynolds site, directly east of the Orange Beach Event Center at The Wharf, received a 9-0 favorable recommendation for the rezoning and was presented to council on Tuesday after press time.

Spyglass also received a favorable 9-0 recommendation, was in the final approval stage and doesn’t have to go before the council again. Greenways Apartments received a 9-0 negative recommendation because commissioners believe more parking is needed. It’s likely to be presented to council for a public hearing at the Aug. 15 meeting.

But discussions of ingress and egress dominated as talk swirled about the proposed site for the iconic Louisiana grocery chain.

Solutions were scarce for just the right way to cram a major supermarket nearly on top of the Justice Center and at what is already arguably the busiest intersection in town.

“The solution is moving it to another location,” Commission Vice Chairman Chris Callaghan said, drawing sparse applause. “This is exponentially worse. There is no way I would be able to approve this.”

Lannie Smith is the city’s Building Official and also sits on the planning commission. He had similar strong objections.

“Rouse’s has name recognition,” Smith said. “They are a destination type store. So you’re going to draw people from the beach, you’re going to draw people from the neighborhoods.”

Smith asked how would people get to Rouse’s and back to the beach.

“When I get in that parking lot my only options for getting back to the beach are No. 1, I cut through the police department’s parking lot,” he said. “Or, No. 2, I make a U-turn on Canal Road. Or, No. 3, I make a U-turn on 161.

“There is no way to get me from that parking lot back to my condo on the beach without cutting through the police department and that’s just not acceptable.”

Police Chief Joe Fierro expressed worries a big supermarket in his department’s front yard might cut into response times. The department’s parking lot is already used daily by trucks, people pulling boat trailers and other vehicles, Fierro said.

“When that happens, and when we get increased traffic from the Rouse’s – and believe me, I love Rouse’s – we’d have a tough time with egress,” Fierro said. “Particularly when somebody really needs us. We don’t have dedicated egress now. However, we don’t have businesses along this road.”

The request was tabled until the Aug. 14 commission meeting while Burton and his company, Burton Property Group, try to find answers to the thorny traffic issues. Stuart’s final words were hardly encouraging.

“You need to go back to your client and tell them that this is the worse possible location to put a Rouse’s,” Stuart said. “And unless somebody waves a magic wand and creates something, I don’t know of anything that you or any other design that ALDOT can do on this corner to make a Rouse’s happen in that location. I don’t know how else to say it.”


The preliminary and final planned unit development on the latest Brett Robinson project received a 9-0 favorable recommendation from the commission. It will now go before the City Council for a public hearing, likely on Aug. 15.

By right, a 201-unit building could be constructed on the sight, but Brett-Robinson instead opted for 120 units. Broker John Brett explained the company wanted to be further off the road on the north and not build to the coastal construction line on the beach side.

Two variances are sought by the company. Codes say there can only be 20 inhabitable floors, but Brett Robinson wants to have 24. The company also seeks a waiver on the incremental setback rule. Code calls for buildings taller than 100 feet to be narrower by two feet for every 10 feet above 100 feet. It’s sometimes called the wedding cake look.

Brett Robinson received a waiver on the incremental setback rule for Phoenix Orange Beach I which is under construction next to the Hampton Inn. Phoenix Gulf Shores, a new 80-unit building, recently opened on West Beach.

The company also agreed to construct a beach access for emergency and beach service vehicles on the east side of the property.