Jim Hahn who chaired the commission meeting, told a small group of neighbors who live directly south of the project this is a very preliminary stage of development and concerns about noise, lights from the closer store and drainage will be fully addressed as the process continues.
As for traffic, he said he owns an engineering firm and speaks from experience.
“That plan is going to make Cox Road between Kingsgate and Tylersville safer,” he said. “Right now there are so many entrances going in and out, there are cars going everywhere, this plan will make it safer. Is it perfect, no, but we can work on that with the county engineers to make it safer.”
Anne McBride, who was representing Kroger and their their landlord Regency Centers at the public hearing, said the existing 66,000 square-foot store was built in 1987 and “it just simply hasn’t been able to keep pace with the growth.” She said Kroger and Regency are investing $50 million in the community with this development.
Township Administrator Larry Burks told the Journal-News given the layout of the redeveloped site he doesn’t believe a bigger store necessarily means bigger traffic headaches.
“There are road improvements directly related to the development that’s right there at the entrance into the complex off of Cox Road,” Burks said. “They’re doing to have to open that up and put a lot of infrastructure in there, including a signal. They’re talking about widening that out and making it more accessible and handle a little more intersection traffic.”
Plans call for adding lanes on Cox Road, three entrance points and other improvements. During peak hours bottlenecks occur at the intersection of Cox and Kingsgate and Burks said age-old discussions about a new roundabout there will likely become a reality with the new Kroger development.
“I’m not sure Kroger is the primary culprit on having a traffic problem at that intersection,” Burks said. “I think it’s the time of day and there are two schools right there and the fact it’s main north/south route.”
Yi-Chi Lee, who lives on Spring Garden Court behind the Kroger site, asked the developers “how would you like a gas station in your backyard” and expressed doubts about the sufficiency of a roundabout.
“I’m not sure you have driven on Cox Road it’s almost impossible, you have a roundabout it would be almost impossible getting to the roundabout on the Kingsgate Way,” she said. “Because the traffic on Cox Road is very bad.”
The traffic study by the Butler County Engineer’s Office examined the intersection and considered a traffic signal and roundabout. County Engineer Greg Wilkens told the Journal-News the roundabout is the correct route.
“Generally there’s abut 30% more capacity from a roundabout than there is from a signalized intersection,” Wilkens said. “In our opinion it’s the safest and best solution.”
The main question right now is who will pay for the new traffic circle. McBride told the commission it is not integral to the Kroger plan but discussions are ongoing. Wilkens has applied for a highway safety grant.
He said the improvement is “guesstimated” at $1.2 million and the local match would be about $389,000. He said the location near Tylersville Road — a major artery through the county — should qualify it for the money.
Burks and some of the trustees have said the $1.9 million — it’s a bit less with real estate commission and fees — the township received by selling the old Activity Center on Cox Road for the new Kroger could be used for the roundabout.