Kum & Go’s proposal to build a convenience store at 1420 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, approved last week by the City Planning Commission in the face of stiff opposition from the Cedar Rapids school district, is not a done deal.
Mayor Ron Corbett on Monday said he will oppose construction of the store at the Mount Vernon Road SE site because the Cedar Rapids school board and school district administrators don’t want the convenience store in such proximity to McKinley Middle School, on the edge of both the Wellington Heights and Oak Hill neighborhoods.
Corbett said school board members, the McKinley principal and others have informed him and other council members that they will appeal the commission vote to the council as permitted under city statute. Those opposed to the commission decision have 10 days to file an appeal.
The mayor said he expected the McKinley school’s PTA and the local teachers association, as well as some neighbors to join in the appeal.
“My position will be to support the school district and the principal and teachers, parents and neighbors,” the mayor said. “We’ve asked the school district to listen to the city as relates to rebuilding our core neighborhoods. And I think it’s important for us to listen to them when they have some serious concerns about the location of a convenience store next to McKinley Middle School.”
Mary Meisterling, the Cedar Rapids school board’s vice president, and Steve Goodall, the McKinley school principal, told the City Planning Commission last week that they opposed the store location near the school because it would bring youngsters in proximity to alcohol and tobacco sales and would serve as a magnet for students on a busy, dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Road SE.
Neighbors concerned about the safety of children spoke out against the store, while neighbors who thought the store might provide a fresh face-lift to the neighborhood, spoke in favor of the Kum & Go plan for the site, which used to be home to Crescent Electric Supply Co.
Kum & Go’s plan would demolish the former Crescent building, which is being temporarily used by the Raining Rose company, and a few other buildings on the site.
City Council member Monica Vernon, who is chairwoman of the council’s Development Committee, on Monday said she needed to learn more before she could knew if she would support the Kum & Go plan.
Vernon noted that the site is zoned correctly for a commercial entity like Kum & Go, and she said the company has followed the city’s existing rules for development on the site. Perhaps, she added, the city needed to make a new rule to keep stores that sell alcohol and tobacco farther away from schools than the current city standard.
Vernon said the city’s core neighborhoods always talk about wanting a grocery store, and she wondered if the City Council would oppose a plan from a grocery store on the proposed Kum & Go site even if the grocery store also sold alcohol and tobacco.
Corbett and Vernon both expressed general support for Kum & Go and for the company’s recent investment in several new stores in Cedar Rapids.
Nonetheless, the City Council in January turned down another Kum & Go proposal to build a store at a different spot on Mount Vernon Road SE. Neighbors in large numbers had opposed the earlier proposal to turn the former site of the Vernon Inn., 2663 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, into a Kum & Go.
Corbett said the council will take up the appeal on the latest Kum & Go proposal in the weeks ahead, once the council receives it.