Neighbors Speak Out Against Royalton BILL’S Superette [VIDEO]
ROYALTON - A convenience store emphasizing groceries that’s moving into Royalton has created an uproar among some neighbors and residents.
A BILL’S Superette is being built at 17333 55th Avenue NW, near Highway 10. According to their website, they specialize in groceries while also offering gasoline, diesel and propane. They plan to open in Royalton by October 1st and are hoping to add 20-25 jobs to the community with five or six being full-time positions.
However, the process of BILL'S moving into Royalton raised eyebrows and questions from nearby homeowners.
Tonya Soltis lives across the street from the development. She says the project was rushed through the city council with little chance for residents to provide feedback.
"We were allowed 15 minutes to speak and they just voted it through. They didn't listen to any of our concerns."
The city council minutes from February 2nd show that a public hearing was held in regards to re-zoning the property from agricultural to regional commercial land. Public comments were slightly extended past 15 minutes from 7:34 p.m. until 7:58 p.m. After that, the council voted unanimously for the motion.
Some neighbors claim it was the first time they heard about the project.
"The only input we had: there was probably 12 to 15 people that spoke out against it for various reasons like traffic, or pollution in the river, and the traffic on the road," neighbor Tom Lippert adds.
In an email response to WJON, the city says the neighbors speaking against the project are Langola Township residents and that the city did everything legally. Grant Rademacher, a spokesperson for BILL's, says they attended multiple planning and zoning meetings, city council meetings and public hearings.
"We filed the required paperwork, attended multiple meetings and ultimately received approval," Rademacher says.
There’s a fear among some residents that BILL’S will muscle out local businesses. Gary Deppa says his wife owns The Royalton Discount Center and that they've offered groceries for nearly 30 years now. The claim some made that Royalton was in need of a grocery option rubbed them the wrong way.
"This affects the whole community and when you see the businesses fold up, [residents] are going to end up going to St. Cloud or Little Falls to do their shopping and everything else."
The BILL'S development is already underway, neighbors now say at the very least they want privacy fencing between them and the site.
However, the city says they can't put up a fence on township property. The land was originally a part of Langola Township. Due to the fact that the development wanted connections to city sewer and water, they followed procedures to annex nine acres from the Township into the city of Royalton.
Soltis says they could still put in fencing on the city side of the street.
"Because right now there are gas pumps, there are fuel tanks, everything is right next to our home where I have three children."
Others also voiced concerns with increased traffic, safety concerns with a school nearby and pollution with the Platte River.
"With the buses and trying to pick up the kids and the traffic that's going to be coming: especially on the fishing opening or Labor Day weekend, it's going to be bad," Sharon Gleaner says.
"I wish I could say right to the Mayor: someone will get hurt and God help me if it's one of my kids because this is not a controlled intersection with this kind of traffic coming to town," Stacy Revoir says.
"Right across from me there's a spot for five semis to park overnight: isn't that great? Right outside my bedroom window I get to listen to semis idle," Lippert says.
The group has vowed not to shop at BILL'S Superette and are encouraging others in the area to do the same.
"We're a family community here and this is what they're doing. They only care about themselves and they want the traffic off the highway," Soltis says.
Rademacher says despite the concern from some neighbors, they're still looking forward to moving into the community.
"We can't make everyone happy, but I think there's lots of optimism."