October 22, 2013 | 05:02 PMIt might have been a quick trip to Lake Geneva for nothing.
Kwik Trip, the LaCrosse-based convenience store and gas station chain, has its eyes set on three parcels at 612, 630 and 700 Williams St.
But the newcomer will have to go before the Lake Geneva City Council next week with the Lake Geneva Plan Commission recommending against a conditional use permit that would make the project possible.
The council can overturn the plan commission’s recommendation, but it will take five votes of the council, regardless of quorum, City Attorney Dan Draper said Tuesday morning.
Kwik Trip representative Troy Mleziva came before the plan commission on Monday seeking to rezone the three properties from planned development to general business, followed by a conditional use permit to build a Kwik Trip store on the sites.
It also will need an amendment to the certified survey map to combine the three lots into one.
Mleziva said Kwik Trip would clear away the three buildings, a former gas station, a 40,000 square-foot former factory and a travel agency, now on the three lots.
The company would build a store on the site with a 6,000 square-foot convenience store, six fuel pumps and a one-bay car wash.
Mleziva said the development would cost “north of $3 million” and employ up to 30 people.
Asked his opinion of the project, Mike Slavney, city planner, said Kwik Trip’s design was a good one.
“Is it the best possible solution for this site? No. But it’s the best that’s come forward,” Slavney said.
Tom Landgraf, the owner of the three properties, argued that this was the best possible project for the land, because, after 17 years on the market, it was the only written proposal he’s received for the properties.
However, this isn’t the first time someone has come forth with a proposal for the property. Two years ago, a group proposed remodeling the vacant manufacturing building on the site as a church.
The project went so far as getting the property rezoned for planned development, and that’s why Kwik Trip had to request a rezoning to general business. The planned development was for a church only.
Landgraf told the commissioners that the church organization took a second look at the old warehouse-manufacturing structure and realized renovating it would be too expensive.
After nearly two and a half hours of public hearing and discussion, Kwik Trip got two out of the three requests.
The commissioners approved the rezoning and map amendment, but it didn’t give approval for the actual construction.
The rezoning was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Alderman Gary Hougen casting the only vote against. The vote was the same for the amended map.
But during the public hearings before both the rezoning request and the conditional use application, a series of local gas station owners and employees came forward to protest the company’s decision to build at that location.
Their arguments summed up, came to: the convenience store is OK. But what’s with the gas pumps?
Those who spoke against the Kwik Trip proposal said it was just one too many gas stations in an area that already has too many.
Rick Mistretta, owner of the Lake Geneva Mobil station and Prairie State Oil, said gas stations pull their customers from roughly a three-mile-square area.
“This business doesn’t increase the pie, it just redistributes the pieces,” said Tom Kaczmarek.
And the unspoken concern was that the surrounding gas stations would be missing a few pieces if Kwik Trip were to be allowed to locate here.
The plan commission was also presented a petition with 750 names opposed to a Kwik Trip at that location.
Jim Strauss of Lake Geneva argued that putting a Kwik Trip at that location would almost ensure “slow death” for two smaller gas stations located nearby, one just across Williams Street and the other just north on Williams.
“I think it’s clear that this development has negative impacts on its neighbors and it is not in harmony with the city’s comprehensive plan,” Hougen summed up before voting against the conditional use.
In arguing for the project, Connors, who chairs the commission, said that Kwik Trip’s proposal solves a long-standing problem finding a new tenant for properties that have been abandoned and under used for years.
“It offers a turn-key solution to a dilapidated service station, a vacant manufacturing building and poorly-located travel agency,” Connors said.
Commissioner Cindy Flowers asked the commissioners if a gas station is the best they expected for those lots.
“Is a gas station what we would envision here?” she asked.
Flowers said she is a fan of Kwik Trip, but she doesn’t believe its location right across the street from two other gas stations is the right location for it.
Kwik Trip’s request for a conditional use permit was turned down by the plan commission on a 5-2 vote, with commissioners Kristen Olson, Flowers, Brian Poetzinger, John Gibbs and Hougen voting against, and Doug Skates and Connors in favor.