A dilapidated factory in southeast Fayetteville will eventually be torn down to make room for a new convenience store.
City Council members voted 5-3 Tuesday to sell about two acres of the former Tyson Mexican Original plant property at Huntsville and Happy Hollow roads to Kum & Go.
The city purchased the 11.2-acre property for $1.1 million in 2004. Part of the land was used to build a new fire station and to realign and widen Huntsville Road. The factory building has since been vandalized and stripped of wiring and valuable metals.
The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company last month offered $900,000 for the city-owned property, but a last-minute offer of $1 million from Casey’s General Store set the stage for a bidding war.
Council members tabled the issue and asked the companies to submit sealed final offers to be opened by City Attorney Kit Williams during Tuesday night’s meeting. Casey’s offered $1.156 million. Kum & Go offered $1.115 million and promised to seek LEED certification for the store.
Both companies also agreed to pay up to $100,000 toward the cost of demolishing the abandoned factory and to split the cost of street construction in the area with the city.
Before the vote, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said his main concern was in getting the area back into a safe state. He said police have responded to 154 reports of crime at the site since 2006.
“That building needs to come down,” said Jordan. “We need to make that area safe and we need to get it back on the tax rolls.”
Included below are comments made by aldermen before the final vote:
Matthew Petty, Ward 2 (voted for)
Petty said despite a higher offer from Casey’s General Stores, he favored Kum & Go.
“I’m not a fan of convenience stores in general, but the benefits of this proposal far outweigh the cost to the community that some citizens have commented to us about,” said Petty.
He called Kum & Go’s commitment to give 10 percent of Fayetteville profits to local charities “the No. 1 reason” to choose the Iowa-based company.
“But that’s not what made up my mind,” he said.
Petty praised the company’s willingness to work with city officials to develop environmentally-friendly stores.
“Words like bioswales or low-impact development or streetscapes aren’t just buzzwords,” said Petty.
“That’s part of a modern vocabulary of smart urban development and I think it indicates an understanding of the factors and challenges that all communities face today.”
Petty then made the official motion to sell the land to Kum & Go.
Martin Schoppmeyer, Ward 3 (voted for)
Schoppmeyer didn’t offer any comments before the vote, but he seconded Petty’s motion.
Adella Gray, Ward 1 (voted for)
After looking carefully at both companies’ environmental policies and visiting the stores, Gray said she also sided with Kum & Go, primarily because of their deep focus on energy-efficient building techniques.
“Anything we can do to be more environmentally conscious, I think we need to do,” said Gray
Gray said she felt energy efficiency was like “second nature” to Kum & Go.
“With Casey’s, I felt like it was more of an add-on,” she said.
Mark Kinion, Ward 2 (voted for)
Kinion said he studied news coverage of each company and was impressed with Kum & Go’s philanthropic history.
“A convenience store is a convenience store to me,” said Kinion, “but when you look at the impact on a community…that means a lot.”
Kinion said he discovered that Kum & Go CEO Kyle Krause is continually recognized as a leader in social philanthropy and both Krause and his wife are known to support health issues, environmental issues, as well as the arts.
“Certainly that is what we’re looking for as a good partner here in Fayetteville,” said Kinion.
Justin Tennant, Ward 3 (voted for)
Tennant started by saying he loves convenience stores and that he doesn’t believe they’re all the same.
“If it makes my life easier, I am a huge fan,” he said, adding that the new Kum & Go store at Township and College is the only convenience store he visits anymore.
“The place is clean, it’s stocked and is always a pleasant experience,” said Tennant. “That does not happen at many convenience stores.”
Tennant said he was tempted to vote in favor of Casey’s because of their higher offer, but ultimately felt that Kum & Go’s community approach was a better fit.
“Kum & Go has proven that they are just a little bit better when it comes to the environmental and community aspects,” he said. “I’m almost 50-50 on this, but I’ve got to tip it to 51-49.”
Sarah Marsh, Ward 1 (voted against)
Marsh said was against selling public land to any company that planned to build a gas station on the property.
“The products that are sold at these stores are typically high in sugars, fats, sodiums and preservatives,” said Marsh. “If we’re going to sell this piece of public land, it shouldn’t be to a store whose primary products are junk food, beer, cigarettes and fossil fuels.”
Marsh said she realized she was on the losing end of the argument, but hoped that in moving forward with further development of the property, the city can do things that are of more benefit to the community.
“This neighborhood is home to many people of limited economic means that are struggling with food insecurity,” said Marsh, and added that the remaining land would be a good location for a community garden.
Rhonda Adams, Ward 4 (voted against)
Adams said she wasn’t buying into the idea that Kum & Go presented a better offer by pledging support to the community.
“I feel like $41,000 is a lot of money and I feel more bound to the higher offer,” said Adams. “I don’t feel that the public good differences are worth that much.”
Alan Long, Ward 4 (voted against)
Long said he was at first against the idea of selling public land for a gas station.
“But the deal is such that the city would be able to take down a building that needed to go away for safety, and it is a really good deal,” said Long.
Long said he agreed with Adams and favored Casey’s because of their higher offer and a couple of other reasons.
“Their benefits package is better and they have a selection of fresh foods that is better for that area of town,” said Long.