Benton Township trustees say no to proposed gas station

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Efforts to build a gas station/convenience store along M-63 in Benton Township were halted once again Tuesday night.

Benton Township trustees denied Pri Mar Petroleum’s request at Tuesday’s meeting to rezone land along the corner of M-63 and Enterprise Way, which kept the company from submitting plans for a gas station.

The board’s decision comes on the heels of two recommendations to deny the rezoning request by the township and Berrien County planning commissions.

Clerk Carolyn Phillips, who serves on the township’s planning commission, gave trustees a recap of the meeting and made the motion to deny the request.

Pri Mar previously applied for a special use permit for the gas station in 2007, which was also denied.

The land, owned by Pri Mar, is zoned D-2 professional. The St. Joseph company wanted to rezone it to D-1 retail commercial, which 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 proposed convenience store portion of the project would have been about 6,000 square feet, with 3,500 of it being showroom space.

After the meeting, Marzke said he was surprised there wasn’t much discussion on the topic and felt they were prepared to address any of the trustees’ concerns.

When asked what his plans are after being denied a second time in 10 years, Marzke said they’ll look at their options. He said they’ll look into submitting another request, selling the property or finding a different development project.

“The township has got to go back and rework their master plan,” Marzke said. “Right along M-63, we need retail. We’re right next to a highway so we could have a big impact. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

During the township planning commission meeting in October several nearby residents were vocal during the public hearing portion. Traffic was a concern because the station would be just south of where M-63’s four lanes become two.

Pri Mar provided trustees with a traffic study, what form of security system would be used and information on noise and lighting that residents had issues with.

“We felt the products and services we want to offer are needed in that area,” said Kurt Marzke, Craig’s brother, during the meeting. “We realize that the D-2 zoning is what it is. We feel this development is a positive for everyone.”

Trustees were also given several letters voicing support and opposition to the project. The majority of opposition to the proposed gas station came from Woodridge Place and Rocky Gap residents.

In another matter, Supervisor Kevin White announced that the land at 2860 M-139 was officially bought by DeNooyer Automotive Group, a Kalamazoo-based car dealership.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 7, 2016)

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