Planeview grocery store advances, could open early next year

A new Save-A-Lot grocery store could open in Planeview as early as next year now that Wichita City Council members have approved special tax incentives to help pay the developer’s bills. The store would sit on a vacant lot at the corner of George Washington Boulevard and Pawnee Avenue.

After a long and fierce public debate, council members unanimously approved a community improvement district that will allow the store to charge an extra 2 percent in sales tax — or $1 per $50 in taxable groceries. The council also approved a tax increment finance district. That will channel the incremental growth in property taxes created by the new store and a proposed strip mall next to it to return to developer Rob Snyder. The council will have another public hearing and vote before the TIF gets final approval.

Both tax incentives will be paid to Snyder as the tax dollars flow in, and Snyder plans to use the money to pay off the money he borrows from the bank. That’s common for community improvement districts. But it’s a first of its kind for a TIF district. “There is no risk to the city in this,” said Allen Bell, director of urban development.

The 16,500 square foot store is expected to cost about $2 million. Of that, $476,640 is projected to come from the 2 percent sales tax and $403,800 is expected from the incremental property tax growth.

Mike Collins, co-owner of the Checkers Food grocery store about a mile away from the proposed Save-A-Lot, adamantly opposed the incentives. "This creates an unfair advantage for local merchants,” he said. Collins proposed that if the council endorses the tax incentives for Snyder that all businesses should be entitled to charge and keep the extra sales tax.

Wendy Aylworth said that she has lived in Planeview for years and that the local Asian and Hispanic markets serve her needs, and that she worries the Save-A-Lot could put other stores out of business. "There's not a need for a grocery store,” she said. “You can walk across the street and buy your groceries."

Dewayne Kitchen, also a Planeview resident, said that the Asian and Hispanic stores are great. “But they don’t have everything I need,” he said.

Seth Horn said he has three children and a low-income. He supports the tax incentives if it means getting a grocery store closer to his house. He said walking his kids to a store a mile away isn’t realistic and that shopping at gas stations is too expensive.  "There's a lot of people in my situation,” he said.