N.Ky. residents appeal Kroger deal after city throws out welcome mat

Kroger sees green, residents see red

UNION, Ky. – Union residents aren’t seeing the dollar signs that Kroger may be envisioning when it comes to its proposal to transform their residential land into a new Marketplace.

In fact, they are fighting it.

Some members of the Northern Kentucky community have lawyered up and filed an appeal against the city’s decision to allow the superstore to take up residence there — that’s because the land Kroger wants to use is zoned residential.

The city recently approved Kroger’s rezoning request, changing a 35-acre stretch of land along US 42 from residential to commercial.

Growth Is Good

While some are unhappy with the city’s decision, others are applauding the superstore setting up shop.

“A new Kroger Marketplace in the Union area would help address the capacity issues that exist with the current store,” Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore said.

The grocer wants to more than double the size of its current US 42 store. And like most old-new Kroger duos, the current Kroger is an eighth of a mile from the proposed site.

The current 66,000-square-feet Kroger, which opened in 1997, can no longer “provide the variety of merchandise and services that Union residents are requesting,” Kroger stated in its project description to the city.

“They want bigger stores, more variety, more services -- to get that, we need more square footage,” Jennifer Lien, a customer communications specialist for Kroger said.

The new development, just eight miles from the new Florence location, 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
  • Nine gas pumps at fuel center

Recommending, Petitioning, Appealing

While Kroger may have the city’s blessing, the green light is turning yellow, as others say, 'Stop!'

The Boone County Planning Commission recommended denying Kroger’s application at its February business meeting, citing a lack in ‘compatibility of uses.'

“The scale of the commercial and office uses are not compatible with neighboring uses. Residential developments are located to the south, east and west of the property.”

The city, however, overturned the planning commission’s recommendation -- regardless of the recommendation or the more than 225 residents’ signatures against the proposal, said Boone County Planning Commission Senior Planner of Zoning Services Todd Morgan.

The Boone County Planning Commission denied Target’s rezoning application in 2008, saying traffic on US 42 would be impacted and the plan did not align with the ‘Union Town Plan’ which made a “conscience effort to concentrate future commercial activity into a viable town center and avoid a typical strip-style’ development,” as stated in the denial letter.

The Union Town Plan originated in 1998 by the city of Union and requested the Boone County Planning Commission to conduct a land use and zoning study for the new US 42 corridor. The 1,850-acre area, which sits in both Union and unincorporated Boone County, would be the catalyst for the Union Town Plan which would relocate a nearly three-mile section of US 42.

“The goal of the Union Town Plan is to create a sense of place for a small community located in the center of Boone County,” the plan’s website states.

The idea behind the plan was to have slower growth with specific types of zoning in order to keep the community growing but not as a commercial Mecca, resident Noreene Morgan said.

READ MORE: The Union Town Center Plan

The formal appeal, filed jointly by citizens and landowners this month, argues the legality of the new Kroger, citing similar infractions as the Target application. 

The rezoning is illegal, Noreene argued, because they are not following the Union Town Plan, amounting to spot zoning.

READ MORE: Kroger eyes N.Ky. land, residents say keep looking

In the appeal she cites: “The Comprehensive Plan states that ‘mixed use town centers should be developed at major crossroads throughout Boone County without commercial development along the roadways between the town centers.’ By contrast, the proposed zoning amendment allows for large scale commercial development on undeveloped land between the town centers.”

Moore said he is hopeful the completion of the Mount Zion Road Corridor west of Interstate 75 will fuel the development of the Town Center Plan but doesn’t think Kroger will be an issue.

“We are on track for the road to be constructed beginning in 2016 and I do not believe that the Kroger project will hamper the Town Plan concept,” Moore said.

Noreene, who has lived in her Villas of Fowler Creek condo 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 Noreene, 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.”

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

READ MORE: Kroger Graveyards

Kroger’s next steps are to finalize site and architectural plans and apply for permits, Rachael Betzler, Kroger representative said.

Each new Marketplace store runs about $25 million, and generates an economic boom to the region — but to do so, they must expand, Lien said.

“[It’s] an investment into the community… always reinventing in our stores,” she said, including creating at least 200 new jobs for each Marketplace that opens.

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





For more stories by Jessica Noll, go to www.wcpo.com/noll. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaWCPO.

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