Whether or not Kwik Trip ends up building two convenience stores in a mile-long stretch along the East Milwaukee Street corridor, the company officially has the option to do so.
On Monday, the Janesville City Council approved a zoning change by a 4-to-2 vote to designate a section of Wright Road off East Milwaukee Street as a location appropriate for development of a gas station. But that approval was no sure thing.
Approval came after two council members, Paul Williams and Susan Johnson, tried to block the zoning change and instead delete Wright Road from an updated list of Janesville city streets where gas stations can be developed.
La Crosse-based Kwik Trip has proposed a $6 million convenience store and gas station near the corner of Milwaukee Street and Wright Road.
It would be about a mile east of another convenience store Kwik Trip already is building on East Milwaukee Street.
Kwik Trip’s Wright Road plan already has faced resistance by Williams and Johnson, who earlier this month worked to block a liquor license request Kwik Trip made for the proposed station.
Kwik Trip has been working to buy a parcel of land that is readied for commercial development along the east side of Wright Road near East Milwaukee Street.
On Monday, the council was reviewing a zoning recommendation by the city’s plan commission to add part of Wright Road to the list of streets in Janesville where gas station developments would be allowed.
Williams proposed Monday that the council scrub Wright Road from the zoning proposal, saying he thinks the heavily residential stretch of Wright Road is the wrong place for another gas station.
“Whether or not that residential is apartments for single-family homes, I believe putting a gas station there, a 24-hour operation, it’s not a good spot for it,” Williams said.
Williams said he’s “for economic development” and “for jobs,” but he said he doesn’t believe a mile-long spur that already has three gas stations and a fourth already underway is a retail “desert.”
Johnson agreed and initially indicated she had surveyed other comparable communities and believes Janesville would be oversaturated with Kwik Trip stations if a new one was built along Wright Road.
Later, Johnson said she was just as concerned about Wright Road being a “two-lane” road that she thinks is the wrong configuration for the volume of traffic a gas station might have coming and going.
Council President Douglas Marklein abstained from the issue Monday. He has avoided discussing or voting on the proposal because he owns a nearby building Kwik Trip leases for another of its gas stations.
Williams and Johnson were the only council members Monday who went along with Williams’ move to cull Wright Road from the list of streets that can allow gas stations.
Johnson, Williams and new council member Michael Jackson earlier this month led the council to a 3-3 deadlock that blocked a liquor license for the new station.
Johnson cited concerns over the potential for litter, and Williams said he has misgivings over the amount of alcohol already being sold by retailers in Janesville.
On Monday, Jackson sided with new council members Dave Marshick and Heather Miller, who argued that the free market, not council members, should dictate how many gas stations get developed.
After defeating Williams’ push, the three and council Vice President Paul Benson voted to approve the zoning change.
Benson indicated he has never seen the council before try to dictate how many developments a corporate entity is allowed to have in Janesville. He called the push by Williams and Johnson a “dangerous government overreach.”