Sodus Twp Planners Okay Speedway to Replace Vacant Cosmo Extended Stay Inn at I-94/M-139

Marathon Oil Company and its retail brand at Speedway are one step closer to establishing a major new presence at I-94 and M-139 in Sodus Township following unanimous approval from the Sodus Township Planning Commission Monday night for a special land use permit for a nearly 10-acre parcel in the northwest quadrant of that interchange replacing the now vacant, fire-damaged Cosmo Extended Stay Inn at that site.

The Sodus Township Board of Trustees will take the Planning Commission’s approval under advisement when they take up the issue at their regular August board meeting tonight.

A new 4,608 square foot Speedway filling station and convenience store is being proposed by Marathon Corporation and Speedway for the site, which includes a one-way access lane to a pump canopy for commercial truck fueling onsite, but the facility will not be a traditional truck stop as such.

At the rear of the property, developers will include limited parking for perhaps a dozen trucks, with another 25 parking spaces designed for passenger vehicles on the front side of the site.

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Mandy Gauss, Senior Project Manager for CESO out of DeWitt, Michigan presented the site plans, architectural renderings, and special land use request along with details of a sign variance request which will be taken up next week by the Sodus Township Zoning Board of Appeals. Gauss’ team of civil engineers and site investigators from CESO, Inc., spent several days off and on at the site in late January gathering data and studying the land. She was accompanied by Speedway Real Estate Representative Al Chakonas from Dyer, Indiana who answered questions and provided details on the proposal for the township planners.

Marathon Oil already owns a parcel at 2657 M-139 and wants to combine that parcel with the larger acreage of the former Cosmo Extended Stay Inn at 2699 M-139 for the new service station and convenience store.

Chakonas says, “We feel like it’s a niche that needs to be addressed as it pertains to fuel for both automotive and diesel customers and we feel like it’s a good fit for us. Logistically, we are on I-94 in Michigan which seems to be the perfect spot for us.”

Chakonas knows his business well, having been with Speedway for 30 years and he says that the company has grown considerably in that time, noting, “I feel that it is at the top of the industry. Literally ‘best-in-class,’ as far as the industry goes.” He adds, “We’ve gone above and beyond and environmentally, I think that we’re solid. We’ve crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘I’ when it comes to safety and the environment, we’ve come a long way in that regard. Just in general, I think that our service to the end-consumer has come a long way and I think it makes us best-in-class at Speedway.”

Gauss, whose crew has been working on site inspections, soil sampling and other site research as part of the due diligence feasibility work of the ultimate developers says they are working with MDOT for a modified traffic signal at the interchange to match up with the interstate highway ramp and several retention ponds will be on the property to handle rainwater runoffs.

If the Township Board gives the green light tonight, the Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the requested sign height variance request next week. Speedway wants to replace the existing 50-foot tower sign with a 70-foot pylon designed to alert commercial truck traffic to the existence of diesel service at the station. A secondary, ground level, monument sign with a brick façade and Speedway signage would be placed at the drive along M-139.

The site clearly has high potential, inasmuch as developers expect environmental remediation, including asbestos removal from the former motel property, to run as high as half-a-million dollars or beyond, but that has been factored into the fueling station’s projected return on investment.

Even the suitors on the national scale for the Marathon Oil brand won’t hinder the plans for development of the new Speedway for the gateway interchange to the commercial corridor along M-139. Chakonas says that the proposed purchase by 7 Eleven corporate parent Seven & I Holdings, “doesn’t change anything with this project. It will be business as usual.”

The site configuration is a standard Speedway blueprint with ease of access even greater here than in some other locations due to the sheer size of the overall site. Future development on the plentiful land away from the station is a distinct possibility, but Chakonas says they have had “absolutely zero discussion on any potential additions to the site,” at this juncture.

As to when you can expect to wheel in to fill up your tank at the new Speedway, Chakonas says, “I cannot give you a firm date, we still have to get through a closing call, we still have to environmentally get things taken care of with the brownfield application, and with all those things being said, I cannot give you a firm date, it would be inappropriate.” Nevertheless, a colleague suggested that it could be ready for customers by the end of 2021, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Once demolition and clean up are complete, and vertical construction gets underway, it should take barely five months before the new station would be up and running.

Inasmuch as developers are hoping to apply for brownfield tax abatements, don’t expect to see any construction begin until that application process is fully vetted, but make no mistake…if the path is cleared by Sodus Township this week, a new Speedway is in your future.

Many people across the region would love to see the severely fire-damaged extended stay motel demolished, considering the tragic fire just over two years ago on the morning of Saturday, July 28th, 2018 when a young mother and five of her children died in a massive fire there that spread rapidly through the building, leaving countless others homeless as a result.

Developers have reached tentative agreements with buy/sell options all signed and ready pending final approval from the township board tonight.