July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Brunswick gives OK to Giant Eagle expansion

BRUNSWICK — City Council voted Monday night to approve an expansion project for Giant Eagle on Center Road, despite previous concerns about the business’ efforts to clean up its loading dock area and examine its Town Center lease agreement.

The vote was 6-to-1 in favor of the roughly 14,000-square-foot addition. Giant Eagle representatives said they hope to
begin construction in the spring.

The resolution to approve the measure went back and forth from Council to the Planning and Zoning Committee over several weeks as Council members and the public raised questions about Giant Eagle’s willingness to meet them halfway on their concerns.

Council members said they have received complaints from residents about the business’ tendencies to leave cardboard and other miscellaneous items on the loading docks. The docks are at the back of the store and face Brunswick Lake Park and several houses.

“They work to clean it up but it goes right back to the way it was,” At-large Councilman Pat McNamara said during a December meeting.

Giant Eagle store manager Jim Babich said the business is making an effort to clean up the area. He said the policy is that the managers are supposed to check and clean up the docks every day.

“I can’t say it’s always maintained perfectly, but we’re making an effort,” Babich said.

City Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny said any permanent structure put in to screen the docks from the park would pose a problem.

“From the nature preserve side, you don’t want to be looking at this beautiful scenery and see this loading dock,” Piepsny said. “We want people to see the park, so we don’t want to block it with trees on that side, either.”

Piepsny said putting any other kind of permanent screening along the building would be a fire hazard because it would block emergency crews’ access to the building if necessary.

Possible solutions, he said, are a swinging gate, or a formal commitment from Giant Eagle to assign someone to keep the docks clean.

At-large Councilman Ron Falconi has said his biggest concern is Giant Eagle’s lease agreement with Towne Center, which effectively allows it to veto any incoming business if it conflicts with its market.

“Over the years, the city has always been accommodating with Giant Eagle, as we are now,” Falconi said. “To me, it seems like Giant Eagle is the one in control here, not the city.”

Falconi, who cast the lone dissenting vote Monday, said he wanted the business to at least evaluate its policies regarding lease restrictions, not necessarily make any changes. He said the city is essentially “rewriting the law to accommodate Giant Eagle.”

Brunswick resident Robert McCafferty lodged a complaint months ago about the store’s docks and lease policy.

“They have a monopoly on Towne Center,” McCafferty said.

Giant Eagle officials have said the addition will add pharmacy space as well as a second drive-through, and and may bring 40 to 50 jobs to the city.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.