The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted early Wednesday to change the zoning of Kroger's property on Euclid Avenue, paving the way for the Cincinnati-based grocery chain to build a new store more than twice the size of its current store.
All 11 council members present voted for the proposal. Ed Lane, George Myers, Kevin Stinnett and Shevawn Akers were absent.
In a meeting that lasted more than 6½ hours, ending after midnight, the council heard from Kroger representatives and residents of the surrounding neighborhood.
The new 86,000-square-foot store would be much closer to Euclid and Marquis avenues and would face South Ashland Avenue.
Neighbors have opposed the plan, citing the size of the new store among other concerns.
Councilwoman Peggy Henson said she understood.
"I wish there was some way that we could scale this down," she said.
While Councilman Steve Kay said he cares about the neighbors' criticisms, he called the development "an incredible improvement for that location" and important to Lexington's urban infill.
"This is exciting," Kay said. "This is something we ought to be doing."
Councilman Bill Farmer asked about plans for the Romany Road Kroger; there has been speculation that Kroger will shutter that store if a larger one is built on Euclid.
Dave Prueter, the chain's director of real estate, said Kroger doesn't yet know what will happen at Romany since it leases the property and will soon need to negotiate a longer-term lease if it is to keep the 25,000-square-foot store.
In order to expand at Euclid, Kroger has bought several small vacant plots adjacent to its property which are zoned for a hodgepodge of uses, including professional office, high-density apartment and single-family residential.
It got all of them, as well as its main property at 704 Euclid Ave., rezoned to B-6P, or planned shopping center.
Bill Sallee, manager of planning services in the Division of Planning, said the rezoning would "allow for a more efficient use of the entire property" since those small vacant plots would be difficult to develop individually.
The planning commission approved the zone change in May. It would have taken eight votes for the council to reverse the planning commission's approval.
Councilwoman Diane Lawless, whose district includes the Kroger site, asked that council override the planning commission's findings of fact, and that council exclude one parcel from the zone change. Both measures failed.
However, council did add stipulations that Kroger must comply with. Among them: The company must build a covered bus stop on Euclid; build an 8-foot privacy fence with plantings along the rear of the property; and have delivery trucks cut off their engines after parking.
Bruce Simpson, attorney for Kroger, told the council that the company has been working on the project for two years.
"It is one of a kind," he said of the plan, which calls for a basement for storage and a rooftop parking deck.
He said the current 38,000-square-foot store is too small to meet customer demand and is a suburban model rather than one suited to an urban environment.
About 35 neighborhood residents attended the meeting to oppose the change, and many of them waved small yellow signs saying "NO Fort Kroger."
Many of the residents said they were concerned about the size of the proposed store and the additional traffic and noise it may bring.
Amy Clark, who made a presentation on behalf of the Euclid League and Columbia Heights Neighborhood Association, said the project is "too intensive, too close to what's a very walkable neighborhood."
She asked the council to deny the zone change or at least require Kroger to make some changes to make the plan safer and more palatable to neighbors.
"It's just too big for that area," said Esther Murphy. "The store will look either like a manufacturing plant, a fort or a prison. ...Kroger, please give your neighbors a break."
How they voted
Members of the Urban County Council voting for the zone change: