Grocer applies for ‘specialty’ exemption from city

Discount grocer Aldi wants South Mooney location but does not want specialty food store classification in property’s current zoning

By John Lindt
Sierra2theSea News Service

VISALIA –Aldi grocery store wants to open a new location on South Mooney Boulevard in Visalia but may not be able to due to zoning.

The Arizona-based grocer is appealing a city planning staff ruling that it does not meet the classification as a specialty food store allowed in current zoning. The appeal was intended to be heard by the city planning commission on March 23. But the meeting was postponed.

Aldi wants to locate in a future Master Planned Development within the C-R (Regional Commercial) zone/land use district. The future Master Planned Development is located on the southeast corner of South Mooney Boulevard and West Visalia Parkway. The vacant site is within the city limits but is part of a 40-acre development that seeks annexation into the city (see red line on map).

The development is south of the Packwood Creek shopping center and across Mooney from the proposed CarMax project that is on the same agenda March 23. This project too faces rules that limit auto dealers on Mooney. More than a decade ago Visalia said it would no longer encourage auto-related sales along the Mooney strip. In this case City Manager Randy Groom says ”it may be a technicality but this application address is along the Visalia Parkway, not Mooney.” But he says the City Council may have to make the decision.

Regarding grocery stores, the existing City of Visalia rule does not allow supermarkets or grocers in regional commercial zones but there is an exception for specialty stores.

Aldi has been rumored to want a Visalia location for more than a decade. They now have opened stores in Porterville, Hanford and Fresno but never pulled the trigger here – until now.

With over 11,000 locations worldwide the Aldi grocery business is owned by a German chain that owns Trader Joe’s but has different model than their sister firm. Known as a no-frills store with extremely low prices. Aldi has over 1,600 stores in the United States and on track to become the third-largest grocery chain in the US by store count by 2022. Aldi has already open locations in Porterville, Hanford and Delano.

The average store is about 12,000 square feet, much smaller than a full-size 50,000 square foot supermarket. The company does not mind going head to head with Walmart or Costco and this location is just blocks from both in Visalia. The strategy will likely mean an Aldi store into southern part of Visalia and one in future – in the north.

Aldi may be getting a good deal from the property owner since the majority of the proposed shopping center acreage at this site needs annexation approval-not always a sure thing when there are so many empty retail buildings in town. City staff suggests they will approve the annexation however and it will then be up to the city council.

John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.

Start typing and press Enter to search