Update: Convenience Store Kum & Go Plans New WLR Location, Sparks Zoning Battle

by George Waldon  on Monday, May. 27, 2013 12:00 am  

Update: Kum & Go officials decided not to move forward on plans for a west Little Rock project at the southeast corner of Rodney Parham Road and Breckenridge Drive. CEI Engineering Associates Inc. of Bentonville withdrew the planned commercial development rezoning application Friday, after Arkansas Business' print deadline, at the request of the Iowa convenience store chain.

The proposal was scheduled to go before the Little Rock Planning Commission on May 30. There is no official word on whether Kum & Go is regrouping or abandoning the project, which sought to redevelop an office building and a portion of an adjoining residential property.

Original story:

For the second time in three years, a proposed Kum & Go development in Little Rock has drawn vocal opposition from neighboring residents.

The latest rezoning battle involving the Iowa convenience store chain promises to be even more of a political donnybrook. The matter is set to go before the Little Rock Planning Commission on Thursday.

Three west Little Rock neighborhood associations have banded together to drum up opposition to the $2 million-plus project at the southeast corner of Rodney Parham Road and Breckenridge Drive.

“I’ve been amazed at the level of participation,” said Donna James, subdivision administrator with the city of Little Rock. “It’s probably one of the most organized campaigns against something that I’ve seen.”

Leading the charge against the Kum & Go project are officers in the Breckenridge Neighborhood Association, Colony West Homes Association and Sturbridge Property Owners Association.

Opponents have cited a laundry list of concerns that include increased traffic at an already busy intersection and the potential crime draw of a 24-hour store selling beer and wine. Those concerns orbit around worries that the Kum & Go will hurt property values.

Carolyn Evans-Stone, president of the Breckenridge Neighborhood Association, said the only business in the area currently open 24 hours daily is the McDonald’s drive-through at the southwest corner of Breckenridge and Rodney Parham.

“To bring someone in who’s 24-7 is going the opposite way we want to go,” she said. “I use Kum & Gos, but I don’t want it in my back door. I don’t want a 24-hour anything in my back door.”

The effort to rally other neighborhoods to the cause extended as far west as Pleasant Valley, where the leaders of the PV Property Owners Association have wearied of lobbying efforts.

“After three months of discussion and notice on this issue, less than 1 percent — less than 1 percent — of Pleasant Valley residents expressed interest in this issue,” wrote Mark Hunter, president of the Pleasant Valley POA, in a message to members. “And the response has been mixed. Some residents are opposed to this application, and some are in favor of this application. Another month of discussion will not create a majority interest.”

The Pleasant Valley POA opted to take no stance on the Kum & Go rezoning but encouraged individuals to voice their opinions to city government.

James Downs, vice president of the Breckenridge Neighborhood Association, estimates that of the 134 households represented by the group, more than 80 percent are against the project, based on door-to-door canvassing.

Similar petition efforts were mounted in the Colony West neighborhood, north of the proposed Kum & Go site.

(For more on Kum & Go, see Kum & Go Aims for Top Spot Among C-Store Chains.)

Home Ground

David Arnold is among those in the Colony West neighborhood who didn’t sign the opposition roster when the petition drive knocked on his door. Arnold’s family owns part of the property that would be used for the Kum & Go development.

He grew up in the house at 10115 N. Rodney Parham Road, built in 1952 by his parents, who raised six kids there.

The Arnold family watched Rodney Parham transform from a two-lane county road into a commercial corridor and the woods across Grassy Flat Creek behind the home give way to rooftops as Little Rock grew west.

Change was part of the package the family accepted as their country home —featured in the Arkansas Gazette in 1954 for its modern design and state-of-the art building techniques — became surrounded by urban development.

To make the 2-acre convenience store development happen, Kum & Go needs a part of his family’s property along Rodney Parham Road rezoned for commercial use.

The house, designed by his architect father, Fred Arnold Jr., would go away, but most of the family’s 2.6-acre property would remain as a wooded, green buffer to the nearest three Breckenridge homes across the creek.

With the death of their mother three years ago, the Arnold siblings believe the property’s time as a home is over. The children acquiesced to her desire to keep the property where she raised her family as is for as long as she lived.

The property is still zoned for single-family residential use, and rezoning by city officials is required before the Kum & Go project can move forward.

Much of the proposed project would occupy neighboring land to the west of the Arnold house. This property at 10121 N. Rodney Parham Road, already zoned for commercial development, is home to the 9,460-SF Gallery Office Building.

Arnold doesn’t understand why the Kum & Go proposal, a commercial redevelopment on a commercial thoroughfare, has caused such an uproar. But he believes that helping fan the flames are business owners whose primary concern is the competition that Kum & Go would inject.

“It is a concern,” said Wiley Greenbaum, president of the Colony West Homes Association, whose family owns Economy Liquor at 9612 N. Rodney Parham Road.

“There are enough convenience stores in the area.

“As far as our business, we’re far enough down the street that it won’t have that much of an impact.”

Greenbaum said what really set off business concerns was a comment by a Kum & Go representative who met with residents to talk about the proposal earlier this year.

When asked about the company’s effect on existing businesses, the representative said, “We put businesses out of business,” according to Greenbaum.

Kum & Go explored developing a project at the southwest corner of Interstate 630 and Fair Park Boulevard. But that idea was abandoned after opposition from the Fair Park Neighborhood Association helped produce a 5-5 vote of the Planning Commission.

The C-store chain contemplated an appeal but decided to abandon the proposal instead.

Will this week’s rezoning request by Kum & Go gain approval?

“I hope it does, but we’ll see,” said David Arnold.



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