RIVER FALLS -- The city has given a stamp of approval by majority vote for rezoning a plot of land, giving the 3.53-acre lot potential for a third Kwik Trip development, but not without a negative vote from one council member.
The parcel located near Cemetery Road at the roundabout connecting Highways 35 and 65 was changed from Multiple Family High Density to Highway Commercial. The property owners who applied for the rezoning went into a purchase agreement with Kwik Trip, according to the city’s memorandum document.
District 3 Alderperson Hal Watson voiced his concern about the rezoning and gave the single negative vote at the Sept. 10 city council meeting.
“It just makes me wonder why did we do a comprehensive plan in the first place if we're not going to be following it? I don't like this going back and rezoning or changing land use. I was on the planning commission when we did the Comprehensive Plan, I think it was a good document and we ought to pay more attention to it,” he said.
River Falls Development Services Director Amy Peterson said in an email that the plan serves as a guide to the physical, social and economic development and is essentially a master plan for the city that is adopted.
Watson wasn’t the only one with concerns.
During the public hearing, town resident Steve Lee who lives on 945th Street, addressed concerns related to traffic patterns from high schoolers nearby and the potential for a rear entry to the future store. Lee wished for traffic access to be controlled to avoid through traffic.
Peterson advised the council she received a call since the first reading of the rezoning item regarding traffic concerns, specifically the closeness of the roundabout to the land.
Kwik Trip is conducting a traffic study, according to River Falls City Engineer Crystal Raleigh, and the city has yet to see the results. She added the city has not done an in-depth internal study as of yet.
Watson discussed moving the potential plans for a Kwik Trip or other convenience store to a plot near Cascade Avenue and Highway 29.
"Although it looks like a great lot for development, it's owned by the state for future road use, is my understanding,” Alderperson At-large Diane Odeen said.
Christopher Gagne, Alderperson for District 2 where the rezoning was approved and which he lives near, said he had received direct comments from people within his district about the plans.
"I know for people that don't live directly in the city limits, it's going to be a huge benefit to those commuting in and out of the city, and it's bringing money into our city as well. I think it's a great addition for the neighborhood. There's a lot of people that are going to use that from my district everyday. Now they don't have to run into town bringing more traffic."
There are currently no urgent development plans in place for bringing the third Kwik Trip to town, but Steve Wrobel with the company's public relations said in an email that Kwik Trip’s Real Estate Department is looking at sites for 2021 and beyond.
River Falls’ first Kwik Trip opened in 2007 and a second in 2010. There are 639 stores serving Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, 406 of which are in Wisconsin.
Kwik Trip, with a homebase of La Crosse, employs 35-40 people generally per store and currently employs roughly 15,000 people across the state, according to Wrobel.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Alderman Christopher Gagne's district.