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Petro Mart proposal requires more information, board says

Planning consultant PGAV to study Lindbergh corridor

Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
September 19, 2012 - Sunset Hills aldermen want more information before moving forward with a Petro Mart convenience store and gas station proposed for 1430 S. Kirkwood Road.

Four public hearings lasting more than three hours and 30 minutes were conducted by the Board of Aldermen last week on the proposal by Land West No. 7. The majority of the nearly 20 speakers who addressed the board were opposed to the Petro Mart.

Petro Mart
How do you feel about the possibility of the Petro Mart being at the former Bob Evans location, 1430 S. Kirkwood Road, in Sunset Hills?
A petition signed by 174 Sunset Manor subdivision residents who oppose the Petro Mart was presented to the Board of Aldermen by Carol Morrison of Deane Court. Morrison and former Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy collected the signatures for the petition.

The development will negatively impact the Sunset Manor neighborhood by reducing property values, disrupting personal lifestyles, increasing traffic on residential streets and jeopardizing the safety of playing children and pedestrians, according to the petition.

In addition, those signing the petition object to the Petro Mart because it will operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Several nearby business owners also objected to the Petro Mart because the development would include the installation of a raised median on Kirkwood Road — also called Lindbergh Boulevard — from Interstate 44 south to Watson Road and a traffic signal at the intersection of Lindbergh at Sunset Office Drive and Monica Drive.

The business owners said the median would limit access to their locations along Lindbergh, while the traffic signal would create congestion on the roadway.

The developer is proposing a 4,500-square-foot convenience store with eight gas-pump islands at the 1.655-acre site of the former Bob Evans Restaurant. John King, an attorney who represents Land West No. 7, told the Board of Aldermen the Petro Mart would generate $50,000 to $60,000 annually in sales-tax revenue for the city.

Aldermen conducted first readings Sept. 11 of four ordinances associated with the proposal, including a text-amendment change that would permit gas stations to have more than six gas-pump islands; a zoning change to Planned Development-Limited Commercial from C-1 Commercial at 1430 S. Kirkwood Road, 111 Monica Drive and 126 Floralea Place; a conditional-use permit for a convenience store and gas station; and a preliminary development plan.

In addition, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to enter into a contract with planning consultant Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, to study the Lindbergh business corridor and surrounding areas at a cost not to exceed $14,900.

During an Aug. 28 work session, aldermen discussed the proposed Petro Mart, including the median and stoplight, for nearly 90 minutes.

At the workshop, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Gau proposed the city commission a study to review the entire corridor, as he was unconvinced the median and stoplight would improve traffic flow.

A traffic study commissioned by the developer recommended the raised median and traffic signal, citing safety concerns for both vehicles and pedestrians. A third northbound left-turn lane also would be added at Lindbergh and I-44.

Chris Beard, a traffic engineer with Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates Inc., performed the traffic study of Lindbergh Boulevard between I-44 and Watson Road. He presented a video model of the proposed traffic improvements to aldermen.

"… We believe this is the best improvement plan given the circumstances of the corridor and we're confident that it will address the safety issues that I previously mentioned …," Beard said.

But residents, such as Morrison, and nearby business owners questioned the effectiveness of the proposed traffic improvements.

"… I decided to put this petition together to find out if my neighbors felt as I did — left out of a process that affects our neighborhood's safety, children's safety and our property (safety) and values," Morrison told the board. "A 24/7 (business) is not residential friendly … I am asking all of you to take these signatures into consideration when you vote to change ordinances or decide on this Petro Mart plans and analysis. Spot zoning is not good …"

She also contended the ramp from Watson Road to northbound Lindbergh is the real problem with traffic flow.

Of the traffic study, Morrison said, "… It goes into shoehorning a business and getting what they want because they're paying for it, and I think that it's not for safety reasons … It's the ramp that's the problem …"

Sunset Manor residents are not opposed to the site being redeveloped, but object to a 24/7 business at that location, she said.

"… I'd like to have an unbiased survey by somebody, you know, that at least doesn't have an interest in putting a gas station there …," Morrison said.

Chris Kemph, president/owner of Spirit Energy LLC, which owns the Circle K Shell station at 1435 S. Kirkwood Road, said he objected to giving up the station's southernmost curb cut and land so Sunset Office Drive could be widened to accommodate the stoplight.

"… I have a lease on this property that lasts many, many years with a major, major publicly held company. That lease in and of itself is very valuable," he said. "There's a clause in that lease that says if there's any significant harm, change to that property, they can void that lease. If they do, my damage will be in millions and I'll be looking for people in this room for compensation. I want you to understand that."

Kemph also contended the traffic improvements were driven by the developer — not the Missouri Department of Transportation, or MoDOT — and the installation of a traffic signal would back up traffic in front of the Shell station.

"… You can't put in that light to back up traffic in front of me. If you do, between that, closing a curb cut, it's going to cause severe problems …," he said.

John Pennington of Savoy Properties told the board his company represents First Bank, which owns the site.

"… The challenge with the site as it currently sits, it cannot accommodate many uses without amending the site plan. (Petro Mart officials) came in and tried to work with the site as it currently sits, and, unfortunately, were not able to progress in its current state. We have confirmed that with other types of uses," he said.

"Therefore, we decided to engage MoDOT. We participated in the traffic study. We also compensated the engineering firm more than 50 percent of that cost, mainly in the event this deal does not move forward, we are in a position to disclose the long-term negative effects and how other businesses would relate to this site …," Pennington said, adding that any business wanting to develop the site would face the same issues.

Not all residents were opposed to the proposal. Two residents said they supported the Petro Mart, contending the former Bob Evans is an "eyesore."

"… That's the entrance coming from Kirkwood to Sunset Hills. That's the first impression you have of Sunset Hills. Do we really want a vacant, boarded-up, dilapidated building sitting there as our first impression of Sunset Hills? I don't," said Kathy Berkel of Homecrest Drive.

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