City Council voted to deny a site plan that would allow Kroger to build a gas station right behind another gas station along Nine Mile Road.

City Council voted to deny a site plan that would allow Kroger to build a gas station right behind another gas station along Nine Mile Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Kroger denied gas station on site of new store in St. Clair Shores

Mayor concerned station will negatively impact neighbor

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 26, 2021


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Stating that there had been “ample opportunity” for Kroger to plan for a gas station on the site of its newest store on Harper Avenue at Nine Mile Road before another owner built one on the corner, City Council voted 6-0 to deny site plan approval for a Kroger gas station on the same property.

Mayor Kip Walby told Kroger’s representative at the April 19 City Council meeting that, when the company was in front of City Council in September 2017, city officials asked if they would take over the then-vacant gas station on the corner of Nine Mile Road and Harper Avenue.

“Kroger said purchasing the vacant station wasn’t an option at that point ... (the company had) no ability to put a station on the site,” Walby said. “The gas station today, that’s being renovated there, was voted (on) by this body June 4, 2018. There was ample opportunity for Kroger to put that gas station there before another one popped up.

“Kroger, I’m concerned that you’re basically going to destroy another St. Clair Shores business.”

Matthew Pisko was in front of City Council April 19, representing Kroger of Michigan in seeking site plan approval for a Kroger gas station at 20660 Nine Mile Road, immediately west of the gas station now being constructed by Aly Bazzi. Bazzi’s station, which will reportedly be a Shell gas station, planned to include a 2,800-square foot store on the south side of the property and four pumps servicing eight vehicles at a time under the fuel canopy.

Pisko said the Kroger gas station would be different, offering only a small kiosk instead of a large convenience store, and selling gasoline, diesel and EO, an ethanol-free fuel that is better for small engines like those in boats.

“The property became available and resulted in a unicorn site that will be contiguous with the store that’s going to open on Wednesday,” he said April 19.

The property was under development as a Panera Bread, but that company backed out of the project, which is how it became available. Pisko said there were legal reasons why Kroger could not develop the corner parcel as a gas station before Bazzi purchased it.

“We like being in your community, obviously; we put a $30 million investment behind this. This is an additional $2 million investment,” he said. “We were restricted from developing on that corner. There were legal reasons we couldn’t. We could not legally develop that property, per the lease.”

He said that Kroger gas has a completely different business model than the Shell station with its large convenience store. Many people are brand loyal and would buy at Shell regardless of the price difference between it and Kroger, he added.

“We’re not competing with a store that has a walk-in cooler. It’s just a different business model,” Pisko said.

He said he can recall times and places where there would be four gas stations on the corners of one intersection and said he could not think of a time when the construction of a Kroger gas station led a neighboring gas station to go out of business.

But Walby said putting another gas station “not a pitching wedge away” from another new business is inappropriate.

“I find it inappropriate to exercise power, which you’re doing for monetary gain, which does nothing but hurt a viable St. Clair Shores business, especially one that’s putting so much money on that corner,” he said, pointing out that Kroger already has a gas station one mile east at Jefferson Avenue.

Councilman Chris Vitale pointed out that Kroger won’t sublease the storefront it’s holding at 13 Mile Road on Harper Avenue to a competing grocer, so he asked why the company felt it was OK for the city to approve competition for another business.

“Here we are with someone who came and put investment into a gas station and now we’re going to put an even bigger, fancier gas station right next to it? If that gas station fails, it’s going to sit there ... empty. It could sit there for 20 years and be vacant and a blight on the city,” Vitale said.

A motion made by Councilman Dave Rubello, supported by Councilman John Caron, to deny the site plan passed a vote of City Council 6-0.

“We can’t just have a gas station right next to another gas station like that, especially when it makes the gas station on the corner there not viable anymore,” Caron said. “What’s good for you guys is not good for the gas station on the corner there.”

Pisko did say that Kroger would be removing the fuel station from in front of the former store on Harper Avenue at 13 Mile Road when the lease is up, but that the gas station at Nine Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue would remain open.

City Council members urged Kroger to work with the owner of the other gas station to potentially incorporate some of the ideas from the Kroger gas station into plans for the Shell gas station.

“I don’t think anyone up here wants to defeat this,” Caron said. “We love new development in the city.”

Walby agreed they would like to see additional development on the outlots of the property.

“We can be excited about other businesses that go in there. We just don’t want that gas station that we don’t think is good for the area,” he said.

Walby praised Kroger for the new grocery store that opened April 21.

“This building looks beautiful — the store, we couldn’t be happier with seeing this,” he said. “It’s been tremendous.”