A Kroger Marketplace could be coming to West Chester Township, and not everyone is happy about it.
Tom Eggert and his neighbors on Wethersfield Drive have lined their street and the corner of Tylersville Road and Princeton-Glendale Road (State Route 747), near where the proposed Kroger would be built, with lawn signs that read “StopKroger.com.”
The group believes that a new 133,000-square-foot Kroger anchoring a shopping center and located on the opposite side of Tylersville Road from their neighborhood will cause noise, litter and safety issues.
An empty field currently occupies the spot. As of Friday, the group had more than 200 “likes” on Facebook.
Meanwhile, a Kroger spokeswoman sees a need for a bigger grocery store in that area, and a development company believes a Marketplace in its proposed 35.5-acre shopping center called Crossings of Beckett will enhance the community.
The opposing groups will headline what could be an interesting discussion when the West Chester Township Zoning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Township Hall, 9113 Cincinnati-Dayton Road.
“It is at a major intersection, it is certainly not residential,” said Timothy Burgoyne Sr., an executive with Silverman and Company, the developer. “We are excited to use this corner.”
The township’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which was last updated in 2004, reads, “careful consideration has gone into these areas (where 747 intersects Hamilton-Mason Road and Tylersville Road) to promote and protect existing and future residents.”
The StopKroger group and its attorney Timothy Mara believe this and other language in the Township’s Land Use Plan supports their argument against the development.
“The plan clearly protects and there is no compelling reason to abandon that plan, which was only adopted a few years ago,” Mara said.
“When you put a large shopping center with restaurants and other uses directly across the street from homes, you have eliminated the transition and the buffering that was intended to protect them.”
With the shopping center, Mara says residents will have to deal with noise, blowing litter, smells from restaurants, traffic from customers and truck traffic.
The traffic issues concern Eggert, who claims his street, Wethersfield, which is located just west the Lakota West Freshman School and just north of a proposed shopping center, is already used by motorists as a cut through from Hamilton-Mason Road to the north to avoid traffic on southbound 747.
“We don’t have sidewalks in the neighborhood, so walking down street right now is somewhat not safe,” Eggert said. “If you add that much traffic to it, people who walk on the street after work for their exercise or the kids who walk to school, will just increase the likelyhood of someone getting injuried.”
Eric Pottenger, development services manager with The Butler County Engineer’s Office, recommended to Bayer Becker, which is conducting a traffic study for Silverman and Company and Kroger, to look into the traffic concerns of the residents of Wethersfield Drive.
Pottenger also said he has discussed the matter with the West Chester Police Department and they don’t believe the road is being currently used as a cut through.
“Cut-through streets are used to avoid congested traffic. To cut through a neighborhood at 25 mph instead of going 50 mph on 747 is not an accurate statement,” Pottenger said. “I also don’t see them using that road to access Kroger.”
Pottenger did acknowledge that there has been issues of Wethersfield being used as a cut through in the past. However, that was before 747, from Tylersville north to Princeton Road in Liberty Township, was widened from two to five lanes in 2007.
In support of the shopping center, Kroger spokeswoman Rachael Betzler said that there is a need for a large grocery store in that area.
“The current (Kroger) location, off Beckett Road and 747, does very well. As a matter of fact, it is already busting at the seams,” Betzler said. “We do need more room for the shoppers in that area.”
Eggert of StopKroger.com understands the benefits of a new Kroger, but doesn’t want it so close to his street.
“This whole thing is not against Kroger. We all enjoy going to Kroger and we need a place to shop,” Eggert said. “For the majority of the people fighting this, I don’t think it is about home value, I think it is a matter of safety. I honestly do.”
If Eggert’s neighborhood loses this fight, Silverman would like break ground on the new Kroger this summer and open by the end of 2013 or in the beginning of 2014.
“We think this could be an exciting new thing for the community. Shopping is a part of the community. Grocery stores are a part of the community. They enhance a community. They don’t detract from it,” Burgoyne said “We want to build the best grocery store in West Chester and it is going to be hard to find one nicer than the one proposed here.”
The original plan for the shopping center included the Kroger Marketplace with fuel center, along with nine outlots along 747. Burgoyne said the current plan is build the Kroger Marketplace with fuel center and three additional outparcels in phase 1 and then build additional retail space not to exceed 65,000 square feet in phase 2.