The Victory Boulevard Kroger in York County is attempting to move to the Kmart in nearby Victory Center, where the two stores would both operate in the space currently occupied by Kmart.
The York County Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday to recommend approval of nine new gas pumps to be installed in front of the Victory Center Kmart, something Kroger Real Estate Manager Fenton Childers said was necessary for the deal to move forward. A wall would be built in the current Kmart, splitting it into two separate businesses, each with their own entrance and signage.
The planners were concerned about the number of gas stations there, as two are already in the immediate area: the BP station in the same parking lot and the Citgo Station across Commonwealth Drive.
“This will really change the character of that stretch,” commissioner Richard Myer Jr. said. He said the installation of the pumps will make Victory Boulevard “start to look more and more like other avenues, and that’s what’s weighing on my mind.”
Myer represented the lone no vote on the commission.
Chairman Mark Suiter said the area already has five drug stores, four grocery stores and two gas stations.
“I don’t think a third gas station will overwhelm the area,” he said.
Commissioner Melissa Magowan said she does not think there is another good use for the land, which she referred to as “an empty parking lot that isn’t being used.”
Commissioner Glenn Brazelton said he thinks the gas pumps are a good use for the property, though he noted else where in the county — such as on George Washington Memorial Highway (Route 17) — where businesses have clustered, leading to buildings that have sat vacant for extended periods of time.
“I don’t think it’s our business to determine who competes where,” Commissioner Tim McCulloch said. “If they want to take the risk, it’s their investment.”
Childers said fuel centers are an integral part of Kroger’s operations. The York County Board of Supervisors gave Kroger a special use permit for their existing store on Victory Boulevard, however Childers said the installation of the pumps there would mean the removal of too much customer parking. He said his company is investigating what to do with the existing Kroger building after the move into Kmart.
Colen Hodgson, a vice president with Miller, spoke on behalf of the adjacent Miller convenience store, which is located in the BP station. He said in his more than 50 years in the gasoline business, he has never “had the audacity” to propose building a gas station nextdoor to an existing station let alone on the same block or shopping center as an existing station.
“There are two facilities there now,” Hodgson said. “This seems to me an undue concentration of similar businesses to present an image that I don’t think York County has. Pretty soon we’ll have Victory Boulevard looking like how Jefferson Avenue in Newport News used to look before all the gas stations went out of business.”
Part of the proposal requires Kroger to remove the gas pumps, pump islands, canopies and tanks should the fueling station go out of business. Kroger maintains about 1,200 gas stations across the country.
The Kroger pumps would not have a full-size convenience store. There would be a kiosk for an attendant who would be on site from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The kiosk would sell small items like aspirin, candy and soda, Childers said.
The proposal will go before the York County Board of Supervisors at their March 18 meeting.