By Lance Mihm
ST. MARYS -- A Kroger store will open in the city in fall 2005, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
St. Marys Planning Commission members and residents met Tuesday to discuss a proposed plan for the 64.2-acre Fortman Trust property recently annexed into the city. The commission zoned 41.1 acres of the property as Commercial-2, opening the door for Kroger to be the anchor store of the shopping center. The rest of the land was zoned as residential/planned unit developments.
The property is located on the northeast edge of the city, at the intersection of U.S. 33 and state Route 66.
Don Fortman, executor of the Fortman Trust, said negotiations are in the works to sell the entire property to Oberer Design Services, which plans to develop the site.
Kroger real estate manager Kelvin Peyton said he is working with Oberer to purchase a building for the grocery. "We have negotiated a purchase price," Peyton said. "We have to go through the issues such as titles, environmental and surveying type problems if there is any. But ideally, I would say we would be ready to start building in the spring. We would have the store up and running about seven months after that."
Peyton said the store would be 69,133 square feet with room for expansion.
The shopping center would have one outlet onto state Route 66 (Spruce Street). Along with the Kroger store, there are plans for restaurants and other retail stores.
Oberer originally asked for R-3 zoning for detached single family residents and R-5 for attached single family housing. But the planning commission changed the plans to planned unit development housing, which means individual developers need to get approval from the commission.
"That way, potential buyers would have to come back on an individual basis," Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said. "It will give the planning commission tighter control of how plans develop."
The zoning designation also helped ease the concern of nearby resident Deb Glaser, who doesn't want low-income housing being built there.
The planning commission also wants the residential and commercial sections separated.
"I think there needs to be an outlet other than through the shopping mall for the residential center or no one is going to want to build there," Weadock said. "We need to separate the two sections."
Jay Norton, who lives across from the entrance of the proposed development, said he is worried about traffic and noise.
It is important to understand this is just the zoning portion of the project," Weadock said at the meeting Tuesday. "Everything will be done in phases. We have to zone the land and give them the right to develop it, but we will also consider all concerns of other residents. There will be public meetings in the future when the project moves forward, and the city will do what it can to allow them to develop their land and still consider the concerns of others."
The zoning approved by the planning commission will go to the city council at its next meeting for final approval.