A Blue Ash developer has scrapped plans to bring a Kroger Marketplace to West Chester Township – at least, for now.
West Chester Township officials received a notice of withdrawal Wednesday morning from Silverman and Company, which planned to build a shopping center that included a 133,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace on the corner of Tylersville Road and Princeton-Glendale Road (Ohio 747).
Timothy Burgoyne Sr., an executive with Silverman and Company, declined to comment, but in previous interviews said the planned shopping center would “enhance” the community.
Residents of Wethersfield Drive and other streets near the proposed development led a campaign against the development and lined Tylersville Road with signs that read “StopKroger.com.” The group was most concerned about traffic and safety.“If they went through with this project, the traffic would have been very hectic,” said Tom Eggert, who lives on Wethersfield Drive. “There are also 600 kids at the Lakota West Freshman School and other children at Creekside Elementary. That was probably the biggest issue – the safety issue.”
While both schools are located roughly 1,000 feet from the back end of the proposed center, there are many businesses that line 747 in that section of West Chester, including a small strip mall on the other side of the 747/Tylersville intersection.
“We are not naive as residents,” Eggert said. “We expect that land to be developed, but it needs to be developed in a way that the land use plan dictates and not be developed in a way that harms the residents of West Chester.”
The township’s 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.”
That and other language from the land use plan, as well as a packed meeting of concerned residents, helped convince the West Chester Zoning Commission board members to reject the planned development by a 4-1 vote on Monday night.
If the developer had not withdrawn its application, the plan would have likely been brought before the West Chester Township Board of Trustees in April. To overrule the zoning board’s recommendation, all three trustees would have had to vote for the development.The development appeared to be dead upon arrival.
“In my 10 years as a trustee, I can’t remember ever overruling a decision by the zoning commission,” Trustee George Lang said. “The zoning commission spoke pretty resoundingly.”
Silverman and Company can re-submit a new plan, but the process would take time.
Requests for zone change has to be heard by three separate boards: the Butler County Planning Commission, West Chester Zoning Commission and West Chester Board of Trustees.
The process takes about three months after a plan is submitted.
The timeframe for the Silverman and Company proposal was not typical because it was tabled several times, however, the developer first submitted their plan Sept. 10, 2012.
“The process has to start back at the very beginning,” said Barbara Wilson, spokeswoman for West Chester Township. “This is all provided that their proposal is something outside of their current zoning. If they come back with a plan that is entirely residential and fits with the property, then they wouldn’t have to go through this process.”
If Silverman and Kroger still want to build a Marketplace on that land, then they would have to go through the entire process because the zoning would need to be changed from Community Mixed Use/Residential Transition to Commercial Planned Unit Development.
Currently, there is a Kroger located close to 1.5 miles down 747 from the proposed site. If that Kroger moved, it is questionable what could come of its shopping center.
“I doubt those small businesses located next to the existing Kroger store can survive without Kroger being there,” said Timothy Mara, who was hired to defend the nearby neighborhood. “If I were the township I would be worried if Kroger moves down the street that I would have a second big empty shopping center.”
The other almost vacant empty shopping center that Mara is referring to is located about 2 miles from the proposed site, on the corner of 747 and Union Centre Blvd.
Many of Mara’s clients thought the vacant shopping center, which used to be anchored by a Bigg’s, would be an ideal location for the Kroger Marketplace.
“That site does not meet our business site model criteria and that is evidenced by the Bigg’s closing,” Lisa Evans, real estate manager with Kroger, said at Monday’s zoning meeting.
“It really doesn’t have good access off 747, it is right in and right out. It also has limited visibility and is surrounded by industrial buildings.”
West Chester is home to two Kroger stores. The other is near the Mason-West Chester border off Tylersville, roughly 5.5 miles from the proposed site. There is also a Kroger Marketplace in nearby Liberty Township.
The Kroger on 747 is roughly 70,000 square feet or just more than half the size of the proposed Marketplace, according to the developer.
“We are very disappointed in the results,” Kroger spokeswoman Rachael Betzler said Tuesday. “It would make a much better shopping experience because the current Kroger is a very busy store and is busting at the seams.”
Mara, who represented home owners in stopping a Walmart Supercenter in Harrison, thinks this fight sounds familiar.
“It certainly reminds me a lot of that case,” Mara said. “We are not really talking about a supermarket, we are talking about a classic big-box store and that is a problem. They tried to keep saying, community, community, community and it is not community retail. It is regional retail.”
The battle over this shopping center is similar to a fight Sycamore Township residents had with the city of Blue Ash over a proposed shopping center to be anchored by a Target. The Target finally opened in 2011, after a nine-year process that was stalled in part due to the economy.
“Blue Ash ultimately made their decision,” said Greg Bickford, planning and zoning director of Sycamore Township. “If the residents are not happy with the traffic, we have not heard.”
Residents of a community called Dillonvale, a housing development with roughly 2,000 homes, couldn’t stop the Target, but helped to stop the original plan of a large shopping center.