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MILWAUKEE — Kwik Trip Inc.'s plans to build up its presence in the metropolitan area here are raising some concerns, particularly among its future competitors.
At a recent Plan Commission hearing in Menomonee Falls, Wis., eight speakers spoke out against the La Crosse, Wis.-based retailer's proposal to build a convenience store/gas station. Three of those speakers operate similar businesses, according to the Journal Sentinel.
A separate bid to build a Kwik Trip in Mukwonago, Wis., also brought out eight opponents to that village's Plan Commission meeting the same night, the report said. Six of them were associated with local gas stations.
Kwik Trip did, however, get a green light for a convenience store/gas station in Saukville, Wis. The approval came after the proposal was previously rejected partly due to opposition led by the community's gas station owners, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Hans Zietlow, real estate director for Kwik Trip, told the news outlet the retailer does not generally see this type of opposition in other communities where it operates in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.
Dominic Alioto Jr., who operates a CITGO gas station and convenience store on Main Street near the proposed Menomonee Falls Kwik Trip site, organized a petition drive and gathered more than 270 signatures. Alioto said the local market already has nine gas stations, with a 10th to be added with the new Costco store that's being developed.
The CITGO operator said the proposed 5,700-square-foot Kwik Trip could put his 1,200-square-foot store out of business.
Not all Kwik Trip's opponents are competitors. In Menomonee Falls and Mukwonago, where the store proposals are pending, residents living next to the development sites also spoke out.
The c-store chain does have its supporters, too. Eight Menomonee Falls residents came to the Plan Commission hearing to support the proposal. They said Kwik Trip is a good business and noted the proposed site has been vacant for decades, according to the newspaper.
Zietlow said similar claims of opposition were made when Kwik Trip was getting approval for stores in other Milwaukee-area communities, including a 2011 proposal for Menomonee Falls that Kwik Trip ultimately dropped.
Instead of the competitive effects, local officials should base their decisions on whether the proposals meet their zoning standards, Zietlow told the newspaper. Kwik Trip shouldn't be treated differently from other gas station and convenience store operators, he noted.
Saukville Village President Barb Dickmann agreed. "It is not government's role to regulate commerce," she said. "We can only look at it from the standards of the Plan Commission."
Zietlow acknowledged that Kwik Trip's strategy of making daily deliveries of fresh food items from its La Crosse commissary makes it a difficult competitor. But that's what customers want, he told the Journal Sentinel.
Kwik Trip is a privately owned company that operates more than 400 convenience stores.