Tenant seeks OK to locate in old Casey’s
Boarded up and abandoned, the building that used to house Casey's General Store in downtown Basehor has stood empty for more than a year.
While Casey's new location at U.S. Highway 24-40 and 155th Street is thriving, the old building has become an eyesore for many residents, including local business owner Dennis Mertz.
"I live a block away from it, and I just got tired of the way it looked," Mertz said.
With deed restrictions placed on the property, no other business that sells gasoline, groceries, pizza, alcoholic beverages or anything else Casey's sold are allowed to move into the vacant building.
The restrictions had Mertz worried the building would stay empty for quite some time, so he decided to buy it.
He said he and his business partner Joe Parizek had been looking for a building to buy for their business, JED Installation, instead of continuing to lease the building on Parallel Road. The business, which installs cabinets, countertops, outdoor grandstands and other equipment in schools, libraries and other businesses in four states, also fit the deed restrictions.
"We provide a professional service," Mertz said about his business. "We don't make anything, we don't produce anything. All this is, is an office."
After several months of inquiries and negotiations, attorneys for both parties reached an agreement and Mertz was permitted to buy the building.
However, Mertz then ran into problems with the city because his business did not comply with the zoning in the area. City officials said he would be required to obtain a conditional use permit to stay, but he needed to be out of JED Installation's old building by July 1 because the lease had been terminated, Mertz said. Time restraints prevented him from going through the proper process of obtaining the conditional use permit before he had to be out of the old building and Mertz went to the City Council in June looking for other options.
A 60-day temporary occupancy permit was issued to give the Planning Commission time to review the conditional use request and pass a recommendation on to the council. Some council members were concerned with the impact the business would have on the area.
"Is the impact going to be less or equal to the previous business?" Council member Jim Washington asked at the June 4 meeting.
"From the noise perspective, how many vehicles are going to be there?" Council president Terry Thomas asked.
Mertz assured them that the business was a good fit for the area and would not be a nuisance to neighbors.
"We don't have a lot of impact," Mertz told the council. "We don't have heavy machinery going in and out. It's simply a business office."
He also explained that improvements would be made to the interior and exterior of the building, including painting and tearing down the canopy that once hung over the gasoline pumps.
"It's an eyesore," Thomas said. "Anything to speed up the process to make it more appeasing -- I'm all for that."
After reviewing the request, the planning commission passed the issue onto the city council with a recommendation for approval with five conditions, including building improvements, a lighting plan and the exploration of landscaping options.
Mertz said he has several other plans for building improvements, including a complete interior and exterior remodel. The canopy is set to come down before the end of the year and while he has already painted the outside of the building dark gray, he said it is not permanent.
"We'll be putting up stucco on the exterior and changing the windows and the doors," he said. "We'll be adding two more windows and hopefully it will look nicer."
He is still unsure how he will satisfy the landscaping requirements.
The council will consider the conditional use permit Thursday, Sept. 6. If the request is approved, city Planning Director Dustin Smith said the permit will have to be renewed and brought back to the council about every five years for approval.
Some council members have already indicated their support for the issue.
"I think anything he (Mertz) does over there is going to be a major improvement, and I'm just very happy that things are opening up on that block over there," Council member Iris Dysart said. "I think his business is a good fit because it is so quiet and there's no traffic. When he's finished, I think it will be an asset to the area."
Mertz said he is hopeful the improvements to the building will make it not only more desirable to look at, but encourage growth in the city.
"I really like Basehor and hope this town grows," he said. "I was tired of seeing this thing as a blight and wanted to make it look better. Hopefully we get approved next Thursday."