By Bob Balgemann


The question of chain stores and their effect on “ma and pa” operations took center stage Monday night, Feb. 6, during a Belvidere City Council meeting.

Casey’s General Store is a chain of convenience stores in the Midwest, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and others. It recently opened a store in Capron and was seeking a special use permit from the city, to allow construction of its first store in Belvidere, at 425 Beloit Road.

Prior to appearing before council the proposal received recommendations for approval from the planning and zoning commission (P and Z) in a 6-0 vote at its Jan. 10 meeting, and from the city planning staff.

Monday, council approved the request, on second and final reading, 9-1, with Alderman George Crawford dissenting.

“There are a few ‘ma and pa’ stores around there,” Crawford said of the proposed location. “Owners have come to me and said Casey’s would ruin them. It’s not good for that area. I have to vote ‘no’ on this.”

One of those owners spoke to the council during the public comments portion of the agenda Feb. 6. He said Casey’s was a chain operation that would hurt the stores that already are in the area.

Alderman Ron Brooks, who also represents Ward 4, said he didn’t see how Casey’s would interfere with the ma and pa stores because there are other, similar operations in the area.

“There are some big service stations in Belvidere,” he said. “If ma and pa stores aren’t being interfered with now, they never will be.”

“What is too many?” Alderman Dan Snow asked. “This is the nature of competition. A lot of time, it’s customer service that people go to. I can’t see a reason to vote ‘no.'”

Mayor Mike Chamberlain was asked to comment and he offered the following: “The City of Belvidere is not in the business of keeping business from coming to town. I talked to a lot of people who are excited about Casey’s. I won’t be a wet blanket on this; I think it will be good for competition.”

He added that with the store being on the Route 20 bypass, people passing through would spend money there and contribute to the local economy.

“I think we should let things come and go, as they may,” Alderman Mark Sanderson said.

On top of that, City Attorney Mike Drella said council could not use its zoning powers to control competition.

Casey’s, with 2,000 corporate stores nationally, would locate on 5.66 acres and have gasoline pumps. But its primary focus, according to comments made at the P and Z meeting, would be the convenience store and food offerings.

A multi-use path at that location, along Belvidere Road, connects with schools to the north and Prairie Fields on the south.


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