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Two more Kwik Trips possible in Willmar

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune The empty Mills Auto building at the corner of Litchfield Avenue and Second Street Southwest in downtown Willmar could soon be torn down and replaced with a Kwik Trip convenience store and gas station.1 / 3
Submitted Concept art for Kwik Trip gas stations in Willmar. One will be located along First Street South, while the second will be located downtown on Litchfield Avenue Southwest.2 / 3
Shelby Lindrud / Tribune The old Mills Auto property along First Street South, between 19th Avenue and Terrace Drive Southwest, is the potential new location of a Kwik Trip gas station and convenience store. Also being planned for the property is a Dairy Queen.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Kwik Trip is continuing its planned expansion into Willmar.

The Willmar Planning Commission last week conducted three public hearings tied to two new gas station and convenience stores. The commission approved conditional use permits for gas sales, but some further actions are still required.

Both of the planned stores would be on redeveloped land left vacant after Mills Auto moved to the south side of Willmar.

One Kwik Trip is planned on property located along the west side of First Street South near 19th Avenue. The station will include 20 gas pumps, a single-bay car wash and a convenience store. The building will be approximately 7,200 square feet and will have access from both First Street and 19th Avenue.

"The exterior of the building is a nice brick facade," said Megan DeSchepper, city planner.

The second Kwik Trip location is planned on Litchfield Avenue Southwest in downtown Willmar. There will be only a few gas pumps at this location and no car wash, but the convenience store will still be about 7,200 square feet.

"It is more intended to be a walk-up food hot spot for those who live and work in the downtown area. The fuels sales are going to be smaller," said Dean George, real estate planner for Kwik Trip.

These two stores will be joining the Kwik Trip gas station, convenience store and truck stop being planned for U.S. Highway 12 on the east side of Willmar, where the former Cenex Travel Plaza was located.

The conditional use permit to sell fuel at the Highway 12 location has already been approved and the Willmar City Council approved on Aug. 21 the vacation of a utility easement for the property, which will allow Kwik Trip to use that portion of the property for stormwater retention and parking. A timeline for construction hasn't yet been announced.

Planning Commission approval of two conditional use permits is required in order to allow gas sales in an area zoned general business.

The commission also on Wednesday recommended the City Council approve a text amendment to the city's zoning ordinance to allow gas sales at all in the Central Business District, where the Litchfield Avenue store would be located.

"Gas sales are permitted in all of our commercial districts, except for the Central Business District. I don't know why it was excluded," DeSchepper said.

The text amendment was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission. It will now go to the City Council for a second public hearing before the council can act on it.

The commission on Wednesday approved the conditional use permit for the First Street station, aftering hearing some public input during the hearing. Shari Olson, who lives on Terrace Drive, just south of where the Kwik Trip is going, asked about a buffer between her property and the station in addition to stormwater concerns.

"That is the biggest concern, what will happen to our property if something else is built," Olson said.

Both the Kwik Trip store and a Dairy Queen planned for construction in that area are working on a joint stormwater plan, George said.

City policy requires that new developments not add any additional stormwater discharge to the city's system. Instead, new development must find a way to retain it.

George said Kwik Trip will work with the city and homeowners to come up with the best solution for a buffer for surrounding residential homes.

"Whatever is necessary to keep the noise and ambient sounds out of the neighborhood," George said.

The Planning Commission also approved the conditional use permit for the downtown Kwik Trip, but contingent on a text amendment to the downtown design standards the commission approved last year.

While the consensus of the commission was the Kwik Trip development is a positive project for downtown, there were concerns about whether it met the design standards, specifically in terms of windows, building height and primary access.

George said Kwik Trip has not closed on the purchase of the Mills properties and usually likes to know if the projects will be approved before buying land.

If the commission recommends approval of a text amendment to the design standards at its Sept. 6 meeting, the City Council should be able to approve it during its Oct. 2 meeting, DeSchepper said.

The closing of the land sale is scheduled for sometime in October, George said.

"I want to take care of this the right way. So we don't set, unintentionally set, a precedent when all of a sudden there are no standards," Commission chairman Steve Gardner said.

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