Following debate, U-Haul, not shooting range, will buy old Palmer Fred Meyer building

Published: Apr. 27, 2018 at 10:00 AM AKDT
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After a lively debate and speculation regarding what would become of the large vacant building in the heart of cozy downtown Palmer, a winning bid has been accepted.

In a statement issued by the president of U-Haul of Alaska, John Norris, he said the transportation and storage company is now under an official contract to buy up the building vacated by Fred Meyer.

The building itself, located at 650 N. Cobb Street in Palmer, was the focus of a community debate over who would take over the property after the grocery giant moved into a newer, bigger location just across the road.

Controversy came when Valkyrie Security proposed transforming the space into a shooting range, and even was in talks with Kroger, parent company of Fred Meyer and broker of the real estate sale through Jack White realtors.

However, almost a dozen people in the Palmer community spoke out against this possibility at a recent city council meeting. Those residents voiced concerns that the space was too close to the US Post Office and several neighboring child care facilities.

One community member, who lives right across the street from the now-vacant building, said he worried about the safety regarding "negligent discharge" occurring in the parking lot. Several other members asked for a delay of the permit, in order for further public comment to be heard regarding the gun range.

It was the possibility of that delay, Valkyrie said, that caused their potential bid to become nonviable.

A noise permit was required, according to Valkyrie president and CEO, Larry Clark, and the company was making serious moves to proceed with their bid on the building earlier this month.

"Our attorneys had multiple conversations regarding possible zoning restrictions and zoning, and it was ascertained that there would not be any issues other than applying for a noise ordinance permit," Clark said in a statement.

According to Clark, problems surfaced when the realty agent managing the sale asked for them to move their closing date up, from August to May. With May soon approaching, and the next meeting scheduled for later that month, Clark said they had to withdraw their letter of intent.

Meanwhile, shipping and moving giant U-Haul was already well into late stages, quietly moving with Kroger to close on the deal, which Norris said should happen in the next four to five weeks.

"We are working closely with city officials and our neighbors in Palmer to make this a reality," Norris said.

For Clark and Valkyrie, however, the deal isn't sour grapes. In a statement, Clark said the company will continue to move forward with their shooting range project, "unfortunately in a different Mat-SU (sic) Valley Location," but that they hope U-Haul "meets and exceeds the residents’ expectations" in the location.

As for what U-Haul hopes to offer those residents, Norris said the location promises that climate-controlled and heated self-storage units "would be the first of their kind in Alaska." While a grand opening date isn't scheduled yet, Norris said they plan to open the doors in the beginning of June.