The West Chester Township Zoning Commission won’t hear the case of a proposed shopping center, which is to be anchored by a new Kroger Marketplace, on Feb. 25. Instead, the project, that has local neighbors worried about their safety, has been tabled until the commission’s next meeting on March 18.
The meeting on Feb. 25 has been canceled.
Last week, WestChesterBuzz.com reported that a new Kroger Marketplace could be coming to West Chester and a group of residents are not happy about it.
In effort to halt plans for a 133,000-square-foot Kroger, 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) with lawn signs that read “StopKroger.com.”
The group believes that the Kroger, which would anchor a 35.5-arce shopping center called Crossings of Beckett, located on the opposite side of Tylersville Road from their neighborhood will result noise, litter and safety issues.
An empty field currently occupies the spot. On Wednesday, the group had 220 “likes” on Facebook.
When the case is reviewed, the Zoning Commission could provide its recommendation to the West Chester Township Board of Trustees whether they should change the intersection’s zoning from Community Mixed Use/Residential Transition to Commercial Planned Unit Development.
“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.”
Most of all, potential traffic problems concern Eggert and his neighbors. According to Eggert, Wethersfield Drive is already used by motorists as a cut through from Hamilton-Mason Road to the north to avoid traffic on southbound 747. The street is located just west the Lakota West Freshman School and just north of a proposed shopping center.
“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 injured.”
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.
(Much of the information in this article, with exception to the Zoning Commission meeting cancellation, was included in a story published on WestChesterBuzz.com on Jan. 25 and in The Cincinnati Enquirer on Jan. 26)