The city of Southlake began the year with the openings of two grocery stores—Fresh Market, which opened in January in Park Village, and Trader Joe's, which opened in February in Southlake Town Square.
Southlake could see a third grocery store open this year if City Council OKs a Kroger on the southeast corner of Dove Road and SH 114. The grocer is proposed to anchor a new development, Southlake Town & Country, which would consist of six 165,000-square-foot buildings planned for retail and restaurants. Pei Wei and Chipotle were named as possible tenants by project developer Cencor Realty.
The city already has a Kroger located along Southlake Boulevard, but developers say the proposed Kroger will have a completely different floor plan and feature more locally sourced and international foods, a larger floral section and a Starbucks kiosk.
Gary Huddleston, director of public affairs for Kroger, said expanding the existing Kroger was not an option.
"We do not own the shopping center that the existing Kroger is in nor the store," he said.
He added that the current Kroger will continue to operate if the proposed one is approved.
Although the proposed Kroger would have a different concept, Southlake's Planning and Zoning Commission denied the development with a 5-2 vote at its Nov. 20 meeting. Commissioners cited concerns of the intensity of the project, pedestrian friendliness, landscaping and traffic. Commission Vice Chairman D. Todd Parrish said in the meeting that he believes the project is "not a quality development and that only the bare minimum is being met."
Residents such as Sue Johnson and Doug Harsy said they are also opposed to the idea of the Kroger and share some of the same concerns of the P&Z.
"We are not opposing this development because we dislike Kroger or are opposed to grocery stores in general," Johnson said. "It would have a detrimental impact to the character of the city and the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhoods."
Johnson and Harsy are not alone in the opposition, as their Stop Kroger petition received more than 690 signatures.
The developers were set to go before City Council on Feb. 3 to present the project, but that was put on hold Jan. 30 when Harsy and Johnson filed an appeal to the city's Zoning Board of Adjustments stating the developer's proposal is not consistent with the land's current zoning, does not conform with an earlier approved concept plan and that city staff applied the wrong tree preservation ordinance.
"Many of us feel that the approach Kroger and Cencor are taking to this project is not right," Johnson said. "In brief, they are taking a piece of property that was zoned in 1997 for an entirely different development and asserting that their development meets the old zoning and thus does not have to go through the full zoning process."
Huddleston said Cencor is not asking City Council for any zoning changes or to make any variances.
Before the ZBA can review the appeal it must first verify if the appeal was filed within the 60-day window following the initial decision relating to the zoning compliance. Harsy said the ZBA is expected to make that decision April 16. Once the ZBA makes it decisions, it will then be left to City Council to decide on whether to approve the Kroger.
Although the proposed Kroger would be the only grocery store in the city north of SH 114, the city is already saturated with grocers along Southlake Boulevard. In a 4.5-mile stretch along the boulevard there are four specialty grocery stores, two supermarkets and two major retailers with grocery sections.
Southlake Mayor John Terrell said he believes grocery stores are attracted to the city because of its location.
"I believe that Southlake is located in a great place for people who live and work in northern Tarrant County," he said. "Whether you are picking up a gallon of milk on the way home from work or planning a feast, Southlake has a variety of options that will suit anybody."
Terrell said he thinks consumers will enjoy having many options for their grocery needs.
"I think people like to have a choice when it comes to anything, especially food," he said. "That's the great thing about the mix that Southlake will have —a lot of options for people who need the basics or something more elaborate."
Some residents said they are concerned about the traffic associated with shoppers from other areas.
"Retail proliferation has made Southlake a regional shopping destination, which has provided Southlake many benefits," Harsy said. "Unfortunately, the traffic has become unbearable."
Huddleston said the new Kroger would not only serve Southlake but also Trophy Club and Westlake, which does not have a grocery store.
Harsy said additional cars from those cities would greatly increase traffic.
"The proposed Kroger is a huge store," he said. "It's the size of a Super Wal-Mart with a parking lot containing over 1,000 spots, and the proposed store will generate over 10,000 additional cars per day in the Dove Road and SH 114 area. It will draw over 900-plus cars per hour during the peak p.m. travel period, adding to an already congested area. It's obvious that Kroger wants to build this superstore as a regional draw for cities west of Southlake at the expense of the nearby neighborhoods."
Improving the city
Although each opening of a grocery store means expanding consumers' options, city officials said it also means improving the city's economy and helping to attract more businesses.
Southlake economic development director Shannon Hamons said the specialty grocers will work together rather than against one another in terms of competition.
"I think Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Central Market and Fresh Market are all very complementary to each other," he said. "I think having all of those grocers is a great thing. I think they can compete in this market because each store has unique and different products to offer. For example, 80 percent of Trader Joe's products are from their own brand."
Hamons added that it is very possible the city will host consumers who shop at more than just one of the stores in a day or in a weekend.
"I think all of the stores will continue to do good," he said. "We are very blessed to have all four retailers in the community."
The opening of the fourth specialty grocery store, Trader Joe's, he said, will also enhance those residents who live in the Garden District, Southlake Town Square's residential area.
"It's in walking distance of the brownstones, and it's making our town square more walkable, which I think the residents will love," Hamons said. "I also think it will help fill up the office space we have left in Southlake Town Square. It's creating more excitement and adding vibrancy."
As the city adds new businesses and possibly new grocery stores, Harsy said he would like to see city officials make adequate adjustments and preparations.
"Future Southlake developments must focus on the current needs, desires and best interests of our community," he said. "Our antiquated zoning ordinances and land-use categories must be updated to reflect these community concerns. Updated ordinances and land-use categories are needed to help reduce the rapidly growing traffic and congestion in Southlake."
Terrell said the Southlake 2030 plan has been instrumental in keeping the Southlake vision aligned and prepared for future growth.
"The City Council has worked diligently to make sure that our infrastructure grows with our city," he said. "In the short term there will be some challenges, but once our road projects are completed I think people will find it very easy to get what they need and be on their way."
Looking ahead Terrell said the council will consider every case that is brought before it individually.
"Every time council hears a case we are mindful of the  plan and carefully weigh what potential change could mean," Terrell said. "We ask the questions regarding market study and saturation. We look to see if the buildings that come are supportive of the 2030 plan. We support new businesses, and we ensure that people want to come here to shop and enjoy."