Last night the members of City Council held a joint meeting with the Planning Commission to talk about the state of the City’s zoning code and other comprehensive planning tools. The idea behind the meeting was for some joint dialogue about where the city is at and where we’d like to be and how the planning tools can help us get there. After making the citizen appointments to the Planning Commission there isn’t necessarily a lot of interaction betwee the Council and the Commission so this meeting was arranged to help make sure everyone was on the same page or at least reading from the same book. I’m sure that the proposed new Sheetz store was on some people’s minds so I thought I’d share an update on that project for anyone that is interested.
I’ve been getting a fair number of emails about the Sheetz project so I went back through my replies and I’ve tried to create a summary letter that answers the common questions. Here’s that letter and hopefully it answers your questions too:
I appreciate the comments you sent about the Sheetz proposal, they’re exactly the kind of things we’ve been talking about inside City Hall as well.
There’s no question that the corner of Fairchild and SR 43 poses challenges for the proposed new Sheetz store and quite honestly that’s why we tried to get Sheetz to consider a different location right from the start. We didn’t go out and recruit Sheetz to develop Mr. Crock’s site, rather the Sheetz folks hired Jack Kohl as their real estate agent to make the new store happen at the corner on their own.
The City only got involved after Jack contacted us to see how we felt about the concept of a new store at the site. It’s really not all that different from when you plan to sell your house, you don’t need to ask the City’s permission, and neither did Sheetz.
Anyways, we told Jack that even though we’re delighted with Sheetz interest in Kent we didn’t think that corner was a particularly good fit for the kinds of reasons that you shared with me, e.g., traffic safety, etc. We offered to try to help him find a more suitable site for his client in Kent but Jack pointed out that the site is already zoned for a gas station, and he’s right, but zoning aside we still tried to suggest that the typical Sheetz footprint might present a problem for the neighborhood and the traffic at that intersection.
Given our initial reaction to the concept Jack thought it would be a good idea to have his clients meet with us directly so that we could have a chance to talk through the site issues in greater detail. In that meeting we noted our concerns, with a particular emphasis on safety and character of the site. To their credit the Sheetz engineers listened to what we had to say and they did go back and rework their site plan to include a nicer looking, smaller brick building and ground mounted sign and they agreed to a right-in right-out only turns on SR 43. It was a good start but after the standing room only session at the next Planning Commission meeting we asked them if they’d be willing to meet with us again to see what else we could come up with.
It’s important to remember that the City is not part of the critical path for approvals so the Sheetz folks could have politely declined our invitation, but they didn’t. They seem to genuinely want to find an amicable solution. So we met again last week and continued to talk about options on the site, including Mr. Frankhauser’s alternative concept.
The staff and I, and Councilman Hawksley, had a productive meeting last Friday morning with the Sheetz engineers. They seemed willing to listen and willing to consider integrating any of the concepts that had been suggested by Mr. Frankhouser that would actually fit on the site. It turns out that the Sheetz engineers had looked quite closely at a design similar to Mr. Frankhauser’s but they were reluctant to push the noise and lights closer to the neighborhood and they also couldn’t get the dimensions to fit on the site. It appears that Mr. Frankhauser’s proposal may be hitting up against some of the same problems.
Regardless of how the alternative concepts turn out, I have to say that the Sheetz folks have in good faith made some additional changes based on the public comments that they think will do a better job of creating a visual connection between the future park across SR 43 and their site, and they have suggested modifications to the sidewalks to create better separation of pedestrian/biking traffic from vehicular traffic. Whether they’re enough to satisfy the neighbors and the Board of Zoning I guess time will tell.
With the citizens on Kent’s Planning Commission already voting in favor of allowing Sheetz to move forward, the next step for them will be to take their site plan to the citizens of the Board of Zoning in October. As the plans stand today variances from the Board of Zoning will be needed. The Board of Zoning can deny the variances but they have to be made for very specific reasons with good justification that will stand up to court scrutiny. I know that a couple of the Board of Zoning members spoke against the project at the first Planning Commission meeting but I don’t know how the remaining members feel about it.
Since City Council approval is not required, the City Council has not taken a formal position on the project although all of the Council members have been asking questions and offering their comments individually. Without an official position taken by City Council on the Sheetz proposal the staff and I are not really in a position to advocate for or against the project but we thought it was important to do everything we could to keep the dialogue open with Sheetz.
We obviously don’t want to do anything that causes unnecessary delays but likewise we don’t want to miss an opportunity to find a reasonable compromise if there is one to be found. We’re not in a position to make any promises to Sheetz but we felt like we’re in a good position to offer Sheetz some ways to better navigate the process for their’s and the community’s benefit.
I wanted you to know that these are issues that we’re working on.
To read the previous posting on Sheetz Click Here.