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Morris committee skeptical over redesigned facility

Layout for Route 47 truck stop gets unlikable changes

MORRIS – Pilot Travel Centers, which first proposed a truck stop in Morris in 2012, came back before the city to present a redesigned facility on the north side of town.

The project was presented to the Morris Development Review Committee during its regular meeting Thursday. The gas station will be on the east side of Route 47, and on the south side of Mall Road, across from Costco.

“A little over a year ago we were here with the original plan,” Brandon Parks, project manager for Pilot, said. “There was an internal delay.”

The actual station building’s size has increased from about 10,000 square feet to about 11,700 square feet, said Building and Zoning officer Bill Cheshareck. The station will include Subway, PJ Fresh Marketplace and Cinnabon restaurants.

The overall look of the building has changed quite a bit, and not to the DRC’s liking.

The building has been flipped. In its original plan, the side facing Mall Road was more aesthetically pleasing. In the redesign, it is a mostly stucco wall. Parks said the flip was done to try and pull more traffic coming from the north that will see the building more. The change also caused the interior layout to be flipped.

The DRC’s concern is that Mall Road is eventually planned to be a commercial corridor. So at some point there will be higher amounts of traffic on Mall Road, along with other shopping centers and retail stores and the city wants that side of the gas station to be appealing, as well.

Morris Police Chief Brent Dite, the committee’s chairman, and members, Mayor Richard Kopczick and City Attorney Scott Belt, expressed these concerns along with Cheshareck.

“This is quite the deviation from the original,” Kopczick said.

He continued that before the economy fell, a Lowe’s and a Kohl’s store were set to be constructed off Mall Road and said he believes that kind of development will return to that area. Therefore, Pilot should want to be pulling traffic from Mall Road, as well.

Cheshareck also expressed concern with the changes of the front of the building. The previous plan called for a more exaggerated entrance with columns and more lighting.

The front was changed to Pilot’s new design for stores that include PJ Fresh, Parks said.

“We feel it is a more inviting storefront approach,” he said.

But Parks said all of these aspects can and will be looked at by Pilot. He said the Mall Road side of the building will be dressed up and even mentioned looking toward the original plan again.

Cheshareck also expressed concern regarding the increases size of the store, while the parking spaces have decreased from more than 80 to 65. Parks said the amount of spots will accommodate the amount of traffic the station will see.

The interior layout also worried Cheshareck with the locker rooms, showers and electrical rooms being located near the front entrance. Parks said this could be changed, as well.

The DRC tabled any action on the Pilot plan. Pilot will be back before the DRC in March with updated plans addressing the city’s suggestions.

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