Kwik Trip is facing a large roadblock in launching a gas station and convenience store on land the company recently acquired in Saukville after the village's Plan Commission denied a conditional use permit because of environmental concerns — but company officials say they plan to fight the decision made by the village.
Four commission members voted against Bob Hamann's motion to "approve the (permit) because ... enough evidence has been presented here that any type of spill or encroachment on the wetland areas is not going to be significant."
While commissioner Richard Belling agreed, commissioners Mike Krocka, Roy Willhelm, Don Brock and Village President Barb Dickmann were not convinced it wouldn't be a risk, offering the dissenting votes. Dennis Luisier was not present at the meeting.
The conditional use permit is necessary because the location is less than 600 feet from a wetlands area; Saukville's ordinance requires the 600-foot distance.
"To say it's risky, I would disagree fullheartedly," Troy Mleziva, a real estate manager with Kwik Trip told the commission. Mleziva reiterated the company's commitment to avoiding a spill — and especially avoiding damage created by a spill — considering the damage such an incident would also do to the company as well for personal reasons.
"(Kwik Trip employees) hunt and fish in these waters, we're not looking to go out and run our businesses (in a risky way)," he said. "Obviously we are interested as well in not having issues like that and being a good steward."
'We're not going to give up on it'
Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip, said the company is disappointed with the village's decision — but they weren't surprised.
"The village has been, for quite some time, changing the ordinances simply to keep us out," Zietlow told Patch on Friday. "We meet all the state statues there. The village can’t — I suppose they can ... but I don’t know that longterm a village will just be able to keep somebody out by changing ordinances to eliminate one business ... especially since they’ve allowed other ... convenience stores to build (there) that really were in contradiction to the same ordinances they're kicking us out with."
Zietlow said he was the person who decided to purchase the land, and fully intends on developing a Kwik Trip on the property — no matter how long the wait.
"It's just kind of a tough and unfortunate situation there. We're not going to give up on it," he said, adding that the toughest part of the situation is the other convenience stores lobbying against Kwik Trip.
"In all business there's competition," he said.
Kwik Trip also owns the land to the south of where they plan to build the convenience store and gas station, and said they plan to work with other businesses on developing that portion as well; hotel and restaurant owner hopefuls have already shown interest.
"I've always wondered why nothing has developed (in this spot) because it seems like a great location," he said. "I watched that whole area down in Grafton explode — and I've always wondered why this interchange didn't grow."
Other gas stations close to wetlands already
The Kwik Trip store was planned to be on land just north of Highway 33 near Interstate 43, developing the vacant lot across from Beck's Exxon Mobile and McDonalds. The company finalized the purchase of that land at the end of December.
The plan commission had already taken action last year to deny Kwik Trip the ability to add a diesel fueling station, according to an Ozaukee Press article.
The company was set to present new plans without the diesel component during Thursday night's meeting, but given the denial of the permit that item was tabled from the agenda.
An environmental report was conducted by a company out of Mount Horeb called Pioneer Environmental, Inc. Joseph Drapeau, a senior project manager with the company, would not offer Patch any comment when asked whether he thought the permit should have been approved; he did say, however, that there are existing businesses that are closer to the wetlands than village ordinances allow.
According to the report, Beck's operating system is 80 feet from the wetland and 250 feet from a "navigable waterway." Tri-Par operates a system that is 270 feet from the wetland and 550 feet from the waterway. The Kwik Trip store would be about 175 feet from an "environmentally protected area," the report says.
Spill could have 'adverse' impact
Willhelm, also the village engineer, was concerned with the potential for a disaster.
"If a release were to occur and it was a significant quantity — it would potentially adversely impact the wetland area," he said.
But Mleziva said the company planned to have the store staffed 24/7, with employees trained in how to react when a spill is detected. Fuel systems are also built with electronic devices that would detect a spill, and the double-walled system would hopefully prevent ground contamination because there would be a second wall to catch the leak.
Still, most were not convinced that high-tech systems and 24/7 staffing would do the job.
"I've been in the business nine years … you can have the best technology you want, most of (the spills are) human error," said Dominic Alioto, owner of Mid City Quick Mart in Saukville. "I can't tell you how many times," he added, he'd seen a person overfill their tank — creating a leak onto the pavement — because they came inside the store while pumping, or were sitting the car on their phone not paying attention.
Traffic flow also a concern
The addition of a Kwik Trip in the proposed location would call for the extension of Foster Drive beyond the already existing slab of road that basically acts as an access point to Beck's Exxon Mobile and McDonald's. The development of the new convenience store was also set to include lengthening that road, creating a cul de sac at the end to make way for possible additional business.
But current business owners weren't so convinced that this road change would actually be an improvement for the village.
Mary Meyer, regional real estate manager with McDonald's Corporation said the company spent quite a bit of money last year to improve the restaurant's drive thru, and the way this road is planned would negatively impact the improved setup.
"There's no way traffic is going to be able to use that and the drive thru without significant issues. You're going to create a bottleneck and people are going to be backed up into Foster," she said. "It will have a significant impact on our sales, which has an impact on the town — and the revenue of the town."
Village officials mentioned that the existing road is more of a temporary set up, and future business development would require change. The proposed road by Kwik Trip gives drivers right-hand turn access to Kwik Trip, and left-hand turn access to Exxon Mobile, though there wouldn't be much room for traffic to wait in line to turn left and road striping would instruct drivers not to block the driveway.
"Only if someone is desperate for a Big Mac, or they are on their last drop of fuel and absolutely will not go to a Kwik Trip," would they drive around to Beck's, Meyer said.