The City of Vicksburg Zoning Board met Tuesday night to discuss the proposed QuikTrip convenience store location on Clay Street near the Beechwood intersection.
The board heard a discussion on the topic from QuikTrip representative JD Dudley, urban planner Jimmy Gouras and various concerned members of the public.
Dalton McCarty with the City of Vicksburg spoke first saying QuikTrip has submitted a building application for the 4445-4449 Clay Street property. The permit was denied because the zoning ordinance definition says a convenience store can’t have more than 5,000 square feet. QuikTrip was asking the zoning board for a variance to allow the larger building.
Dudley with QuikTrip then presented their plan to develop and build the 11-acre+ property and open what they describe as a convenience store. According to Dudley, QuikTrip was listed as one of the best places to work in America and one of the top 100 companies in America. The General Manager of this location will make around $130,000 a year and the beginning manager’s pay will be around $45,000. They plan on hiring at least 25 employees with starting pay above $12 an hour. Dudley went on to show a short video of how the location would look.
Urban Planner Jimmy Gouras followed Dudley and objected to Dudley’s presentation on several points. Gouras was primarily concerned about the truck traffic on Clay Street. Gouras presented the board with three-ring books outlining his argument and backed it up with numerous professionally printed charts. Gouras claimed that QuikTrip was going to build a truck stop, not a convenience store as they claimed. He pointed out the similarities of the QuikTrip building plans to the Love’s Truck Stop at Ceres Plantation. He also noted the 8,000 sq. ft. size of the building is larger than the ordinance allows and the size of the lot all indicate a truck stop, not a convenience store. He also pointed out the planned store would have eight fueling stations for diesel. Gouras went on to note the on and offramps from the interstate and the difficulty of getting to and from the proposed location along with the added safety concerns the increased traffic would bring.
Gouras declared, “I’m not on anybody’s payroll to say what I just said. I love Vicksburg. We want the zoning board to make the determination that this is a truck stop, not a convenience store. We think you should deny the variance because the variance request is contrary to the goals and objectives of the zoning ordinance.”
James Kilroy, claiming a China Street address, went after Gouras’ presentation on a number of issues beginning with the claim that 2100 trucks a day would go to the truck stop “…is ludicrous.” Kilroy went on to point out people who work in Vicksburg live elsewhere. “There isn’t a ‘Stop the Stop’ sign in Byrum where people welcome good quality professional development.” Kilroy also pointed out that trucks won’t stop at the QuikTrip if it is difficult to get to.
Kilroy then declared, “This is an anti-competitive push to keep solid competition out of this town. Let’s call it what it is. They hope that by killing off this zoning variance that QuikTrip will just pack up and walk.” Kilroy continued and pointed out the high pay QuikTrip offers and how that pay and the competition will improve the community.
Kilroy then set his sites on Jimmy Gouras and his argument saying, “I don’t mind a good and reasoned argument. But a bunch of disingenuous BS, disguising the real reason. Mr. Gouras got 20 minutes and said he’s not paid by anybody. We know who is paying Mr. Dudley. He works for QuikTrip.” Addressing the board directly, Kilroy said “You think that book, all those books you’re holding (that were given to the board by Gouras) was prepared without money? That is an insult to my intelligence and the intelligence of everybody in this room. Somebody paid for that.”
“It’s time for old money to let go of the city of Vicksburg,” concluded Kilroy. “Say what it is; anti-competition. And it’s embarrassing.”
Beechwood restaurant owner, Will Hood, got up and said “We’re sitting on ground zero. What were talking about is public safety. Putting concentrated 18 wheeler traffic on that intersection, if you put ’em there and you concentrate ’em, it will create a public safety issue. It’s a public safety issue.” The Beechwood Restaurant will abut the proposed Quick Trip location on Clay.
City Attorney Nancy Thomas pointed out the ordinance under consideration doesn’t include anything about a truck stop, only a convenience store. “Is it a truck stop or a convenience store, that’s what the board has to decide.”
The board didn’t decide. They instead moved to recess the meeting until the first Tuesday in November and encouraged Quick Trip to use the opportunity to meet the application guidelines.