With renewed interest in bringing a national business here, many in the Killeen area are letting their opinions known — both on social media and directly to the Herald.
On Monday, the City of Killeen Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve a conditional-use permit for the property located at 701 and 709 E. Central Texas Expressway, which was formerly Gander Mountain and closed down in 2017.
Jay Moore, who works for Minnesota-based Oppidan Inc., was at the meeting to speak on behalf of Camping World, a nationwide RV dealer that wants to open a new dealership with retail component at that location. Moore said the RV dealership could bring about 50 jobs and possibly $40 million in annual sales to the Killeen economy.
At a Dec. 8 Killeen City Council meeting, the council voted 4-2 to not allow a rezoning request for the property, which prevented the project from moving forward.
The Killeen City Council is expected to revisit the issue at its Jan. 5 workshop, and vote on the conditional-use permit on Jan. 12.
The permit is contingent on several new conditions being met. These include eight more parking spots, light shielding on the parking lot perimeter, and a requirement of the conditional-use permit expiring after 180 days of no activity on the business, and others.
The conditional-use permit option is supported by Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra.
“It’s a good thing,” Segarra said on Tuesday. “Ultimately it’s up to the council. Hopefully they’ll look at it more favorably next time.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, at least of 114 Facebook comments were made on several articles the Herald has run on this topic since Sunday, from online readers across Texas and as far away as California and Washington State.
Sarah Elix, who currently resides in Port Orchard, Washington, but studied at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, described the initial vote not to rezone the property in favor of Camping World as “foolish.”
“Many families in the direct area own recreational vehicles and camp,” she said on Facebook. “They have to go outside of the county to get services and items or outfit these vehicles. Georgetown is the closest place. Camping World is a great store and would bring a lot of revenue to the city. If the council had such a problem with the permanent change, why didn’t they recommend DURING the meeting for the business to request a conditional permit? I’m also really tired of people we elected, not giving comments on why they voted the way they did. I have a right as a citizen to know why you voted the way you did.”
Emilio Perales, of Belton, echoed the same notions.
“Camping World would bring in more people searching for RVs and camping supplies,” Perales said, also on Facebook.
Dalton Craig, of Belton but formerly of Killeen, was a bit more pointed in his response.
“The city is dumber than dirt,” he said. “Lot of tax $ going elsewhere.”
Hannah Vega expressed her opinions directly to the Herald, not just about the proposed new business but about the City Council’s general approach to bringing new business to the area.
“Our city council had a breathe of fresh air with the former city councilman, (now Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1) Gregory Johnson, as he ran on a campaign of transparency,” Vega said by email. “This is something that this current city council is sorely missing. We voted these people in to voice their opinions and yet they stay silent. Question is, why is city council or EDC bringing in businesses that don’t offer a living wage? Businesses that just don’t fit the demographic of our city. How many rvs do you see in this area? Rarely do I see any.”
Vega further touched on Killeen’s specific need, perceived or otherwise, for an RV service center.
“Maybe 1 household every 10 blocks has a RV,” she said. “Why? Because we just do not have the capacity for it. Camping equipment that we can get online or through Walmart. Something that we don’t need a large building for. The demand is just not here ... The council needs to work on the poor and food desert crisis before they continue wasting money on exemptions on companies that will only fail a year or 2 later. We are tired of seeing businesses opening in Killeen that just don’t make sense for Killeen and its citizens. Negotiations and talks on this matter need to be dropped and city needs to continue to work hard to find businesses that can compliment our medium sized city.”
Attempts to obtain comment from media representatives of Camping World were unsuccessful as of press time.
Conditions for the pending conditional use permit for Camping World’s use of the property at 701 E. Central Texas Expressway are as follows:
Exterior site lighting along the perimeter of the property will be shielded to direct light downward, and no light shall be permitted to shine or trespass onto any abutting property or right-of-way.
RV parking and outdoor display of RVs will be limited to those areas on the site plan identified as “RV Parking,” plus an additional eight spaces along the front property line. This results in maximum of sixteen (16) RVs permitted to be displayed along the front property line.
The two (2) sections of fence running parallel to the front property line, and the section of fencing running perpendicular to the front property line through the parking lot, will be a wrought iron style fence not to exceed six (6) feet in height.
No strand wire or barbed wire fencing will be permitted anywhere on the site. All chain link fencing will be black PVC or vinyl coated.
No RV traffic, including test driving or demonstrations, and no freight delivery traffic will be permitted on Athens Street, Tyler Street, Malakoff Street, or Bellaire Drive.
One (1) ornamental or shade tree measuring at least two (2) inches in caliper shall be planted for every fifty (50) linear feet of frontage along the front (south) property line.
The Conditional Use Permit will expire at such time as Camping World ceases operation of their business for a period of more than one hundred and eighty (180) days.
The applicant shall work with staff on a revised site plan.
Source: City of Killeen