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Health food store plan gets approval by P&Z

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By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Planning and Zoning Commission approved a developer’s application Feb. 27 to build a health food store on at 1459 Trinity Drive and to subdivide the lot.

The plan will now go to Los Alamos County Council for final approval.

The commission’s decision wasn’t without some members of the public voicing their concerns.

A Los Alamos Co-op member Rose Martin told other commissioners if the store was eventually built, it may mean the end of the Los Alamos Co-op, which was founded in 2011.

The Co-op is the only full-service health food store in the county.

The developer, Leadership Circle LLC wants to build a 13,222 square foot Natural Grocers store on the site where the Los Alamos Shrine Club building now stands.

The Shrine Club will move to the other lot behind the store. Leadership Circle plans to also build the Shrine Club’s new building.

“My concern is, with this store opening… is that we will lose the Co-op. There’s only so many customers in this small town,” Martin said.

Martin explained that the Co-op only exists because the community took on and funded building the Co-op itself.

In the 2000s, when the idea of a health food store in Los Alamos was being considered, people involved in bringing a health food store to Los Alamos County learned that the national health food chains wouldn’t come to Los Alamos because the population of the county wasn’t high enough, according to Martin.

The developers also plan to enter into a deal with the Los Alamos Shrine Club to let hikers who use the nearby Canyon Rim Trail to use their parking lot.

Other residents who spoke at the meeting were looking forward to the store coming to Los Alamos.

“I’m for this new development,” real estate broker and landlord Terry Salazar said. “You cannot try and stop development. I say change is good for the community. It may not look that way in the beginning, but it always turns out to be for the best,” Salazar said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Neal Martin abstained from both votes on the project because Rose Martin was his mother.

Both measures passed 5-0.

However, Neal Martin did ask the county planner and the county attorney if there was a way to protect local, small businesses from larger, national chains from crowding out smaller business because they have more in resources.

Los Alamos County Associate Attorney Kevin Powers said the board is not allowed to deny businesses from moving in on those grounds.

“The fiscal and pecuniary interests that might affect other parts of town would be far stretched case to make in my view as an attorney on the basis of approval or denial for that application,” Powers said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the printed version of the story, which states that Rose Martin is a Los Alamos Co-op board member. Martin is a member of the Co-op.