By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Pri Mar Petroleum is again looking to build a gas station/convenience store along M-63 in Benton Township.
The St. Joseph business submitted a request for the township to rezone land along the corner of M-63 and Enterprise Way. Trustees will make a decision at its next board meeting Dec. 6.
Treasurer Debbie Boothby said the same company had come to the board for a special use permit for a gas station in 2007. After the Planning Commission recommended it be denied, Boothby said the company withdrew its request before the board could vote on it 10 years ago.
When the rezoning proposal was submitted for approval this year, the Benton Township Planning Commission recommended the township’s board reject the plan during an October meeting. Then the Berrien County Planning Commission took a look at the proposal in November and agreed with the Planning Commission.
The land, owned by Pri-Mar, is zoned D-2 professional as the company is trying to rezone it to D-1 retail commercial, which Boothby said has more options for developments.
Craig Marzke, chief operating officer of Pri Mar, said when they first applied for a special use permit in 2007, the land was zoned residential.
The convenience store would be about 6,000 square feet, with 3,500 of it being showroom space. Marzke said the store would carry an expanded grocery selection and have a modern look to it with tall glass walls and a high-tech security system.
The station would offer gas and diesel and be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Marzke said it would create about a dozen jobs.
The exterior lighting would be LED directional lighting, which doesn’t cast out into the distance.
“They’re used at new stores,” Marzke said. “The lighting doesn’t look like a football field when you pull into a parking lot.”
Marzke said 2.5 acres would be part of construction with the remaining property to be used for something “that would benefit the surrounding neighborhood.”
“The store’s laid out in a manner that matches up with the (next-door) fire station. We want to fit it into the neighborhoods,” Marzke said. “The landscaping plan surpasses twice the amount the ordinance calls for. We want it to look nice.”
This wouldn’t be Pri Mar’s first gas station. Marzke said they have 13 other stations, which includes Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs, Stevensville and St. Joseph.
The proposal faces resistance from some nearby residents. The Planning Commission’s October meeting minutes indicate residents were vocal during the public hearing portion.
Traffic was a concern since the station would be just south of where M-63’s four lanes become two.
Boothby said the majority of opposition to the proposed gas station is coming from Woodridge Place and Rocky Gap residents.
Marzke said he understands their concerns, but felt Pri Mar has an opportunity to provide a service that is not currently available in the area.
“I know we can tastefully do this project that would be a benefit to the neighborhood and an asset to the entire community,” Marzke said.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 26, 2016)