Kroger (KR) eyes Northern Kentucky land for rezoning, residents say keep looking

Folks speak out about proposal in neighborhood

UNION, Ky. – Residents in Union want to keep their neighborhood rural with grazing horses enclosed within white fences, but Kroger said it wants to build a new store in the neighborhood.

Kroger has applied to rezone just over 35 acres of residential land along US 42 in Union, Ky., in hopes of building a Kroger Marketplace and fuel center, although neither Kroger nor the Boone County Planning Commission have approved the project.

“If zoning is approved, the new store will offer our customers an improved shopping experience,” said Rachael Betzler, Kroger spokeswoman.

The new Marketplace Store would replace the existing store just about a half-mile away on US 42. Plans call for a store that is double the size of the existing grocery store.

“The existing property is not large enough to enable Kroger to sufficiently enhance the store to improve our product and service offerings to our customers,” said Betzler.

Some local residents are working to gather 1,000 signatures on a petition to provide to city officials to demonstrate the opposition to the potential project.

‘Impact Our Peaceful Life’
Owned by Arlinghaus, LLC, the large grassy acreage that sprawls between Braxton Drive and Arbor Springs, is situated across from The Villas of Fowler's Creek.

Residents at The Villas of Fowler's Creek fear traffic congestion will disturb their quiet, rural community. Jessica Noll | WCPO

A subdivision of condominiums built in 2007, the Villas’ residents refer to it as a peaceful and serene community. But they say the traffic; noise and pollution of a larger, more-populated Kroger across the street will decrease the quality of life they have come to enjoy.

The proposed rezoning will occur on residential land just across from The Villas of Fowler's Creek on US 42 in Union. Jessica Noll | WCPO

Residents like Noreene Morgan, who has lived in the Villas for six years, said it’s not about Kroger, it’s about her and her neighbors’ way of life.

“We’re not against Kroger building a Marketplace, but this is residential,” said Morgan, who moved from Florence to downsize and get away from heavy, congested traffic. “I’m not happy about it. I though I’d have tranquility and quiet.”

Mary Lou Pleasants, a resident of the Villas since 2007, made the choice to move to the area for her husband who has Parkinson's disease and needed accessibility for his wheelchair.

“I think the traffic is going to be horrendous,” she said. “Traffic is already backed up and they cut through the condos to escape traffic."

Condominium board chairman Larry Kocisko agreed.

“My way of living would decrease because of the increase in traffic. Every reason that I moved here would be negated."

Kroger’s project description submitted to Boone County Planning Commission included a traffic impact analysis that found an additional signal would be warranted at the Fowlers Lane intersection, creating a “safer and easier access point from Fowlers Lane to US 42.”

“It’s a quiet, rural, residential area. If we had any inkling that this would go in, we would’ve never moved here,” said Patti Raftery, a Villas resident.

The Development In Plans
The current Kroger on US 42, which is 66,000 square feet, opened in 1997, but can no longer “provide the variety of merchandise and services that Union resident are requesting,” Kroger stated in their project description for rezoning.

The new development, if approved by zoning, would include:

  • 135,976 square-foot Marketplace
  • 9,820 square feet for non-public use
  • 8,000 square-foot liquor store
  • 12,000 square feet of building area for offices
  • 730 parking spaces
  • 9 gas pumps at fuel center

Kroger's new Marketplace would include a fuel center and liquor store..

The current Kroger is 1/8 of a mile up the road, but if Kroger pulls out of that spot, businessman Jim Grammas said the nine businesses he leases space to surrounding the grocer would struggle, including Subway, Pizza Hut and a dry cleaner.

“When people go to Kroger, they go to our stores. That’s why I invested $2 million in that—it will be hard to lease if [Kroger] leaves,” said Grammas.

“If I’d known Kroger would move out, I would’ve never bought the damn land.”

Not The First To Target Land

Kroger isn’t the first to apply for rezoning the residential land. In 2008, Target hoped to open a 132,886 square-foot Target store, including a 45,700 grocery store.

Target applied for a zoning map amendment for a 51-acre site on the southeast side of US 42, across from Old Union Road and Fowlers Lane, and a 3 ½-acre site located on southwest corner of the Old Union Road/US 42 intersection. 

Target applied for a similar rezoning in 2008.

The Boone County Planning Commission denied Target’s rezoning application in May 2008, saying

traffic on US 42 would be impacted and that the plan did not align with the City of Union’s ‘Town Plan’ which made a “conscience effort to concentrate future commercial activity into a viable town center and avoid a typical strip-style’ development."

Kroger’s proposal is a 35.25-acre portion of the 51-acre area tract that Midland Atlantic, Target’s development company, tried to rezone in 2008.

‘Mall Road Is Sufficient’

“We want to keep Union small and rural with no more big box stores,” said Morgan.

She and about 60 other residents who met on Saturday said a new Marketplace planned for Mall Road in Florence is close enough, which is less than four miles away.

At this time, Kroger has not yet put the Union location in their capital plans in 2014; however, more projects are expected to be announced later in the year.

Slated for opening in 2014 include Florence Marketplace, which is projected to open early spring, as well as a major remodel to the Mt. Zion Road location near Union. Those projects have a total price tag of $25 million.

Over the past 5 years, Kroger has spent $205 million on 13 new stores and $66 million on 20 remodels.

The Boone County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing regarding Kroger’s application to rezone the land on Dec. 4, where the applicant will present their proposition. Those in favor of and against will have the opportunity to speak. More than 225 residents have signed a petition against the proposal to present to the commission.

WCPO Business reporter Dan Monk contributed.

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