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Here's Why the Bellevue Kroger Won't Have a Gas Station

Bellevue's Board of Adjustments voted down the application that Kroger had submitted to the city in order to install a gas station in the parking lot at the Kroger store on Donnermeyer Drive.

City staff, led by zoning specialist John Yung, had met with Kroger representatives many times previously to negotiate a deal that would allow the Kroger fueling station to be built while still adhering to Bellevue's form base code, but the two sides could not find enough compromises to move forward on the plan.

The meeting Thursday night followed one a month ago in which Kroger was asked to revamp its plan to better fit the form based code. Both meetings lasted hours. Kroger's plans call for the demolition of the nearby car wash, something the owner of that business was supportive of. 

The major sticking point was that Kroger wanted to build a kiosk within the fueling station complex like those that they have in most other Kroger gas stations, but the city insisted that Kroger construct an actual building that would look more like a convenience store than a kiosk. Yung said that Kroger had specified it did not build convenience stores, yet Bellevue city staff found such a store in Fairfield, Ohio which was used as a model for the kind of store Bellevue would like to see Kroger build in the parking lot on Donnermeyer.

Kroger argued that the two sites were not comparable since the store in Fairfield is offsite from any nearby store, while a convenient store in the parking lot of the existing Kroger store would be considered onsite and didn't, they said, make good business sense. Instead, Kroger agreed to build a 4-foot brick wall that would match their planned kiosk which would separate the gas station from the street and would provide safety to pedestrians around the site.

“What we are trying to do,” said Kroger Representative Jonathan Wilker, “is to provide solutions, trying to address the frontage concerns that we felt were discussed at the last meeting and provide some resolution to that.”

“The bottom line is that Kroger needs to build a building that is functional. To impose a requirement that mandates that they build a store that is not functional accomplishes nothing and is not reasonable for them to have to do," Wilker said.

Other issues the two sides seemed unable to find common ground on was the ceiling height of the canopy above the gas pumps and storefront glazing, which is window paneling in the front facade of a building.

Marie Pettijohn, manager of the Donnermeyer Kroger store, spoke on behalf of Kroger by pointing out all of the ways the store helps the community.

“Kroger does a lot for the city. I feel like we're trying our best to meet the needs of our customers,” Ms. Pettijohn said.

Many residents addressed the board, some citing concerns such as lighting, and increased traffic, and others were worried about the smell of fumes and pedestrians safety concerns. A few residents supported the construction of the gas station, pointing to the potential growth of the area.

Jodi Robinson, the Bellevue Assistant City Administrator, spoke against the move and recommended that Kroger closely adhere to the form base code that the city developed in order to create a sense of place. A kiosk, she argued, does not create that sense.

After the Board rejected the application to build the gas station, they encouraged Kroger to go back to the drawing board and reapply in hopes that perhaps more negotiations could lead to the gas station being built that fits within the form base code of Bellevue.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

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