EDMOND - When voters go to the polls Tuesday they won't decide whether a planned Crest Discount Foods superstore can be built at the southeast corner of W 15 and N Santa Fe Avenue.
But they will settle a zoning question that opponents contend could mean the difference between an originally proposed 110,350-square-foot store and a scaled-down 78,980-square-foot version.
Tuesday's tally will decide zoning on five acres just south of 10 acres where Crest now plans its third store.
The formal ballot wording doesn't give a clue that the issue relates to Crest. It states: "Shall the following Ordinance be approved? Ordinance No. 2116, rezoning certain real property generally located South of the Southeast corner of Santa Fe Avenue and 15th Street in the City of Edmond, being approximately 5.33 acres in size, from 'C-3' High Density Residential and Commercial Services District to 'D-1' Restricted Commercial District? " The Edmond Neighborhood Alliance and Allied Residents in Support of a Safe Edmond promise last-minute campaigns aimed at informing voters about the referendum's ramifications and urging "no" votes.
Nick Harroz, owner of Midwest City-based Crest, has kept his options open.
That includes the possibility of reverting back to the larger store if voters support the zoning change. Even the smaller store would be Edmond's largest supermarket.
Revival of the original plans would require Edmond City Council approval, City Attorney Steve Murdock said.
Harroz's stance has drawn opposition from the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance, which has about 30 member homeowner associations.
"This is a referendum certainly on whether residents want a larger store," said alliance President Dan O'Neil.
The alliance proclaims in an open letter to residents: "To give you an idea of just how big a 110,000 store is, the Sam's at Memorial is 100,000 sq ft and Albertson's at 15th is 52,000 sq ft.
This is certainly more than a neighborhood grocery store. " Mayor Randel Shadid doesn't quarrel with the way opponents define Tuesday's question, but he takes an opposite position.
"I hope the voters approve the council's action, obviously," Shadid said.
That would mean a "yes" vote to endorse the council's zoning change on the five acres from "C-3" high density residential and commercial services district to "D-1" restricted commercial district.
Another council member, Gary Moore, said the issue has been "hashed around enough publicly. " It's time, he said, for the people to decide privately how they will vote.
C-3 zoning would allow up to 16 apartment units per acre, while D-1 would permit retail shops and stores and perhaps an expansion of Crest.
Joining the neighborhood alliance in opposition is Allied Residents in Support of a Safe Edmond.
The grassroots citizens group, known as ARISE, has circulated petitions and filed a series of lawsuits in an unsuccessful attempt to block Crest's construction.
"We're trying to put across that this is not a moot question," said ARISE leader John MacDonald. "We're real concerned that he (Harroz) is going to build the store he wanted in the first place if we don't get the vote. " Shadid, a harsh critic of zoning by petition, said he supported Crest's original plans and would vote for them again.
He said he would prefer a larger Crest to "a bunch of apartment houses. " Last May, the Edmond city council approved a zoning change on the five acres at question. Coupled with the adjoining 10 acres that already allowed a grocery store, that gave Crest room to build a 110,350-square-foot building.
However, the five-acre zoning change was subject to a referendum petition and ARISE collected 1,646 valid Edmond voters' signatures to force the upcoming vote.
But as a result of that petition, negotiations occurred that prompted Crest to scale down its proposal and move plans entirely onto the 10 acres, zoned "D-1" restricted commercial district since 1981.
The council then granted amended site plan and special-use permit approval.
ARISE launched another petition and gathered 1,691 valid signatures seeking a citywide vote on the 10 acres. But Oklahoma County District Judge Carolyn Ricks in late December sided with the city, which said the permit was not legally subject to a petition drive.
When the compromise was originally offered, Crest hoped to avoid a costly and contentious public fight. But the battle has dragged on anyway, apparently convincing Harroz to wait for Tuesday's verdict before deciding how to proceed. He could not be reached for comment. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 606084