BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN The prospect of a Kwik Trip being built, along with a Caribou Coffee/Einstein Bagels, between Cemstone and Flippin Bill’s on Highway 12 has brought out differing opinions on what, if anything, should be allowed at that location.
In addition to social media chatter, about 10 people attended Monday’s Delano Planning Commission meeting and half of them all neighbors of the property in question spoke in opposition to the proposal.
After hearing those concerns, responding to them, and hearing from Kwik Trip representative Dean George, the commission voted 5-0 with Nat Malen and Dan Menk absent to recommend approval of Kwik Trip’s request for a site and building plan review and conditional use permit.
Next, the Delano City Council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, to consider a development application from Harvester Ridge LLC for a conditional use permit, final stage planned unit development, and final plat for the Harvest Ridge development to include two lots where Kwik Trip and Caribou Coffee/Einstein Bagels have been proposed and four outlots.
Both gas stations and car washes are allowed by conditional use permit in that zoning district.
Plans for the Kwik Trip call for a 10,300-square-foot building that meets all building requirements, according to City Planner Alan Brixius.
It is required to have at least 51 parking stalls, and 61 have been proposed. The final number may be less, as city staff is requesting a sidewalk along the private driveway and a crosswalk between the coffee shop and gas station.
Staff has requested a plan showing how trucks will move through the site. City Engineer Shawn Louwagie will work with the applicants to determine how wide the curb cuts can be to accommodate truck traffic without making the traffic lanes unclear for other motorists.
Brixius said another requirement would be a buffer yard including a berm and landscaping to screen the property from neighboring residential properties. He initially recommended staggered conifer trees so the screening would be consistent throughout the year, but later said taller deciduous trees should also be planted.
Regarding the canopies over gas pumps, all lighting would need to be downlit, with no lighted signs on the south sides of the canopies. Any public address systems would not be allowed to be audible at the property line.
The same standard would be enforced for noises associated with the car wash. To that end, Brixius recommended extending a wall at least 15 feet beyond the car wash blow dryers to reflect the noise to the north, and away from the residential area.
Two car bays have been proposed, with two lanes of stacked traffic at times.
Propane would be sold at the store, but there would be no propane filling on site.
Initially, a 3-foot-wide sidewalk was proposed to go around the propane tank enclosure, but Chair Jon Krieg suggested the sidewalk be 4 feet wide to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and Brixius added the suggestion to the list of conditions the commission ultimately approved.
Krieg spoke against having three accesses to the gas station, and Brixius said, “I’ll bring it to the engineer and see what we can do.”
Krieg also questioned how much room would be available for traffic to stack up while waiting to turn onto Highway 12. Brixius said there would be about 180 feet, or enough for about nine cars.
“More would be better, but that’s not terrible,” Krieg said.
During the public hearing, residents from the nearby Maple Knoll neighborhood joined the discussion.
Resident Wayne Bekkala questioned if a fourth gas station was needed, given that there is already one abandoned gas station in town.
“What happens when another gas station goes down, and we have two gas stations abandoned that cannot be easily redeveloped?” Bekkala said. “I wanted to make sure that was taken into consideration.”
Residents Brad Klatke and Mark Ricke raised a similar concern, saying that a new gas station could hurt business at Flippin Bill’s, with Ricke noting that owner Bill Hanson is “not going to up and leave like others have.”
“This is always an issue we face,” Brixius said. “When we get a development application, and someone coming in, we don’t have the basis to say no because it might affect someone else’s competition. We have to follow rules set up by the state and zoning ordinance. It is zoned B-2, so it has a broad array of conditional uses. That’s not a very compassionate way of looking at it, but I think our hands our tied in that respect.”
Bekkala asked where excess material from the site would go.
“They’ve asked to stockpile this as part of the Harvest Ridge subdivision,” Brixius said. “They are going to ask to place fill here. As part of the Harvest Ridge review, we’ve asked for quantities and amounts. We’re asking it to be screened . . . so Johnson Drive doesn’t get the brunt of it.”
Brixius added that staff would be requesting a timeline for how long that fill would be stockpiled at the site.
“I do have a friend who wants 20,000 yards if it comes to that,” Klatke said of the fill.
“We’d like to get as much out of there as possible,” Brixius said. “ . . . We share your concern with dirt storage. There is no reason to clear-cut everything just to have dirt there. From a standpoint of erosion, we’re trying to get that addressed.”
It is not yet known if that fill would be removed from the site via Johnson Drive or Highway 12, but city staff has requested details of those plans.
Regarding the removal of trees, which residents mentioned, Brixius said, “We have a tree-preservation plan, but when we’re taking out trees not deemed as quality or significant trees, we fall back to ordinance requirements.”
With that said, the city would be requesting as many as possible mature trees to remain until after the stockpile of fill is removed.
Resident Steve Lohse said vehicles’ lights would go directly into the homes in his development a concern shared by fellow resident Kevin Reed in addition to increased dust, dirt, and exhaust fumes. Lohse also claimed the crosswalk from the 24-hour store to the path along Johnson Drive would increase pedestrian traffic by his house and the odds of vandalism and theft.
“I believe the property value of my home and other homes will be negatively impacted. I invite all of you to my home to stand on my deck and envision what it would look like. I believe it is ill-conceived,” Lohse said, adding he would use the hashtag #notinmybackyard to show opposition to the project.
He both questioned the access onto Highway 12 and the need for an access onto Johnson Drive.
Minnesota Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over any new accesses onto the highway and could require traffic control at the intersection if the access were to be approved.
“Johnson Drive is a heavy-duty street that had to be constructed with Cemstone and the Delano industrial park in mind,” Brixius said. “As far as the weight and design of the street, it can handle it. As far as increasing traffic volumes, that’s something to consider.”
Mayor Dale Graunke added that Johnson Drive was the detour during the Highway 12 construction.
George had the opportunity to address concerns from the public and questions from the commissioners.
He classified Kwik Trip as “a grocery store with fuel,” which makes it different from more traditional gas stations.
“We can serve communities like this quite well for people who don’t want to go to the other side of the street to go to Coborn’s,” he said.
A Delano location would be the only store on Highway 12 between Willmar and the Twin Cities.
He said Kwik Trip would be “willing to work with the City of Delano and engineering staff on the best way to get landscape screening, buffering, etc. to prevent noise from leaving our site.”
Addressing residents’ concerns, he said, “We pride ourselves for being quality neighbor to the communities we’re in and the people we’re around . . . We understand being near a neighborhood, there can be conflict. We’re trying to prevent conflict as much as possible.”