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Wyandotte PlazaOfficials with the Wyandotte Plaza redevelopment project and Ball's Food Stores listened to Unified Government Commissioners at the April 25 meeting. Those with the project favor adding another entrance on the east side of the shopping center, off State Avenue, for the new grocery store. (Staff photo)
The first meeting for four new Unified Government commissioners and a new mayor displayed some differing opinions on a proposal from Wyandotte Plaza officials before trying for a compromise.
At the 7 p.m. UG Commission April 25, two motions died for lack of a second before the proposal was sent back to the Planning Commission for more work.
Officials with the redevelopment project and Price Chopper’s parent company, Associated Wholesale Grocers, asked the UG for another entrance to the center, on State Avenue toward the east side. The new Price Chopper store will be on the east side.
Bart Lowen, vice president of development and design for RED Legacy, told the commission that another right-in entrance on the east side would help the success of the grocery store.
Under the design for the new center that already has been approved, the number of entrances will be reduced from three to two on the State Avenue side of Wyandotte Plaza, but UG officials also pointed out they would put a new stoplight there. There are also two entrances on the 78th Street side.
Officials with the developer and the grocery store were concerned that once motorists went past the east side of the center, without an entrance there, they would keep on going without stopping. Company officials estimated about 45 percent or so of the customers were coming from the east.
Mike Beal, chief operating officer for Ball’s Food Stores, said access was very important to grocery stores. There have been some stores closed because they didn’t have proper ingress and egress, he noted.
‘This is going to be our most expensive Price Chopper ever built, bar none, and in Wyandotte County,” he said. “We really want this to be successful.”
During a public hearing, a resident from the nearby highrise told the commission there were a lot of people at the highrise who would appreciate an entrance on the east side.
The application for the extra entrance had been recommended for denial by the Planning Commission, citing several reasons including safety and visibility.
Planning Commission Director Rob Richardson, when asked by Commissioner Brian McKiernan, explained that as the final plan came forward for previous approval, this issue of the entrance was left out, to work on later.
The UG has been rebuilding State Avenue, trying to eliminate right turns without stoplights, according to Richardson. While the other entrances have a deceleration lane, this proposed entrance as requested would not have a deceleration lane. The UG’s staff believed there would be more accidents there without a deceleration lane.
Project officials thought a right-turn at the east side of the center would avoid more accidents from those who would not have to cross traffic to get to the store. One of the project officials suggested trying the new entrance and after a period of time, seeing what the accident rate was.
Commissioner Hal Walker moved to override the Planning Commission’s denial, but his motion died for a lack of a second.
Commissioner Mike Kane opposed the proposal from Wyandotte Plaza on safety reasons. He said he worked in a safety department for 21 years.
“If we ever set something like that up and somebody got hurt, I couldn’t look at their family and say, yeah, I did something like that,” he said.
Commissioner Jane Winkler Philbrook also expressed a reluctance to approve anything that wasn’t safe.
Kane's motion to deny the entrance also died for lack of a second.
Mayor Mark Holland asked planning staff what other alternatives would work. Richardson said if there was a deceleration lane for a new entrance, it would increase safety.
According to UG officials, the property needed for the deceleration lane belongs to a gas station, and the UG under law is not able to condemn that property for this project.
On a 7-1 vote, with Kane voting no, the application was sent back to the Planning Commission for more work.
After the meeting, officials with the redevelopment project said this issue of an entrance would not affect the project’s overall timeline, and would not stop the project. They added it was very important to them to have an entrance at this location. Mayor Holland told them he was very supportive of the overall project.