QuikTrip’s plans to expand and modernize its Westport Road location hit a roadblock Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean the controversial development is dead.
The Kansas City Plan Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to deny the request for a rezoning and development plan that would create a larger store with added pumps at Westport Road and Holly Street.
Commission member Coby Crowl sided with QuikTrip. But commission chairwoman Babette Macy and members Stan Archie, Trish Martin and Enrique Gutierrez agreed with many neighbors who said the expansion didn’t fit with their mixed-use residential and commercial neighborhood and could create many traffic and safety headaches.
“This project is, I believe, not a good fit for this site,” Macy told the crowd following several hours of impassioned testimony by both supporters and opponents of the project. “I don’t think it fits well with the urban fabric.”
But Macy echoed many others in the audience in saying that she thinks QuikTrip is a great corporate citizen, an excellent business and employer, and an asset to many neighborhoods. And she reminded everyone in the audience that the Plan Commission is just a recommending body. The final decision for development controversies like this rests with the City Council.
“This will go to the council,” she said. “This is just the warmup.”
QuikTrip, which has been in Westport for decades, wants to expand its convenience store from about 3,200 square feet to 5,773 square feet, provide a total of seven pumps and 14 fuel stations, add parking, and create better entrances and exit points from its store. Its plan would close off Mercier Street south of Westport Road so QuikTrip could build over it and a vacant Berbiglia Wine & Spirits shop.
“Overall, this will meet our customers’ demands better,” Andrew Smith, real estate project manager for QuikTrip, told the commission.
Many in the audience supported QuikTrip and said the expansion would serve the area very well, especially because it makes use of a shuttered Berbiglia. They predicted someone will eventually redevelop that vacant liquor store site and warned that the next plan might not be as good. Some said the traffic flow might actually get better through the store’s expanded parking lot, and they favored the closing of Mercier.
“QuikTrip provides a valuable service to our area, and they have obviously outgrown their footprint,” said Ann Scott, a condo owner in the neighborhood.
But many residents of the West Plaza neighborhood argued that QuikTrip had made no concessions to their concerns, except agreeing to add more landscaping.
They said they were not anti-QuikTrip or anti-expansion, but wanted a better plan.
“The plan is a suburban design,” said Julie Tenenbaum, vice president of the West Plaza Neighborhood Association, contending that it was being shoe-horned into a crowded, dense urban environment. “QuikTrip’s plan does not work for the neighborhood on many levels.”
She said neighborhood leaders had gathered signatures in about a week from 845 people opposed to the plan. Many were from the neighborhood, but also from elsewhere in Kansas City and even some Kansas residents because this site is just blocks from the state line. She said opposition focused on the increased traffic, questions about safety and the closing of a public street.
Plan Commission members asked attorney Jim Bowers, who represents QuikTrip, if they should postpone a vote and allow for more dialogue between the business and the neighborhood, to see if a compromise could result.
But Bowers said the company’s traffic study showed the business expansion would actually improve traffic conditions on Westport Road, and future meetings with the neighborhood were not needed.
After the commission’s vote, Tenenbaum said the neighborhood realizes the battle now shifts to the City Council. But she said the commission’s vote was encouraging and a relief.
“It’s a good start,” she said.