Gas Wars: Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment or Citizens Against American Business Competition
“QuikTrip officials have said they are not experienced campaigners because they have never had a gas-station issue end up on a ballot.”Arizona Republic
Who doesn’t like QuikTrip? Cheap gas. Tasty drinks. Well, apparently a local Chevron franchise owner working with local political consultant Jason Rose feels otherwise.
Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment is a political action committee financed by Takhar Associates Investment Group. The Takhar family owns the investment group and conveniently owns a trailer park and Chevron gas station at McDowell Road and 44th Street, just a .5 mile jaunt south of the QuikTrip proposed for the northwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane.
Political action committee names are always very humorous, often concealing their true motivations behind puff language and creative acronyms. Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment sounds like it would comprise of concerned Phoenix citizens opposed to some sinister land plot. One would have to look behind the name to see that this group’s true motivations boil down to passing a ballot proposition that would eliminate the threat of a business competitor.
“The Takhars have said they aren’t afraid of competition. They are focused on the cost of land. They said they paid more than $3.5 million for the trailer-park and gas-station properties in the east Phoenix neighborhood, but that QuikTrip is buying property for much less because the land on Palm Lane is zoned for homes, not businesses.”
In a statement to CBS 5 News, owner Rajinder K. Takhar said: “It (Prop 2) changes the rules for a massive corporation to hurt our small businesses and those of the single family neighborhoods in the area. Liquor, gas and convenience stores should go on commercially planned land not in the middle of single family neighborhoods, especially in a part of Phoenix that has 10 gas stations within a mile.”
The Takhars claim it is not about competition at all but an unfair price advantage in land. How is that any better? If land were truly a viable residential option, why has it remained vacant for over 20 years? It is not about a “concern” for the “neighborhood” but instead about eliminating American business competition, the single force that allows the free market to operate properly. I thought the rule was the best product wins? According to Takhar family, that’s balderdash.
A ‘Yes’ vote on Proposition 2 would approve the rezoning of property located at the southwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane, currently zoned as residential, to permit a gas station and convenience store. A ‘No’ vote would leave that parcel as residential only. A copy of Proposition 2 can be viewed here.
“In 50 years of doing business we have never seen this before where you do all your due diligence, we made 13, 14, 15 changes to accommodate some of the concerns out there, and we have never had a competitor come in and spend this kind of money.”
Opponents of Proposition 2 would like to present this struggle as a “David vs. Goliath” type effort. Fighting a multi-billion dollar corporation looking to locate a business in their quaint neighborhood. According to Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment:
“An out-of-state corporation, out-of-state property owner and influential lobbyist convinced the Phoenix City Council to change the rules and allow a liquor, gas and convenience store, operating 24hours per day, 7 days a week, to go into the middle of an East Phoenix neighborhood, on land that was long-planned for residential.”
But who are the REAL opponents?
In its statement of organization, the PAC said it got a $51,500 loan from Enterprise Bank and Trust late last year.
About $50,000 of the loan covered the residents’ fees for Summit Consulting Group, which gathered more than the 9,798 signatures the residents needed for a voter referendum to fight the QuikTrip.
Summit Consulting is a professional consulting firm that manages campaigns and political candidates including running the YES on Proposition 1 (Home Rule) campaign, to contracts with candidates such as Claude Mattox and Matt Salmon. Jason Rose is arguably the biggest PR name in the Valley, and his services come with a hefty price tag. Further, the $50,000 loan comes from the Takhar Associates Investment Group, an LLC owned by Rajinder Takhar. Rajinder is the wife of Gurvinder Takhar, who illegally sold the Chevron station to his wife when he was convicted of tax evasion in 2002.
Apparently, the gas business has been very, very good to the Takhar’s, who own a $1.5 million dollar home in Moon Valley. There is no doubt that they are aware of the fact that a new QT will affect their business and hurt their current profit margins as the closest gas station near the 202 freeway.
The most recent campaign filings for NO on Prop 2 at the Phoenix City Clerk Department show the loan came from Takhar Associates Investment Group, a Glendale limited-liability company whose owner, Rajinder Takhar, lives in Paradise Valley. Again, these are the same Takhars who own and operate the Chevron at 44th Street and McDowell.
The Takhars also suggest their opposition to Prop 2 is a matter of concerns over congestion and public safety, trying to rally the neighborhood around the cause. As anyone who lives in the area or routinely drives by the proposed location knows, the area is already congested and the site has been nothing more than a vacant dirt lot for over 20 years. The home directly across from the proposed QT site routinely has six plus cars parked in the driveway and the street including numerous cabs. If there were ever a case to be made for an HOA, this is it. Further, the Chevron located at 44th Street and McDowell trying to force QuikTrip out of the neighborhood is sadly a magnet for transients, taggers, meth addicts and bus stop hooligans.
A Clean Freak car wash already exists 100 yards to the south of the proposed site and a Costco exists another 100 yards to the north. The idea that this area is exclusively residential is a stretch. The addition of a new QuikTrip, which will provide a well-lit 24-hour business with new jobs and improve an already blighted property, should be considered a welcome addition to the area. The Phoenix City Council, along with the Planning Village and Planning and Zoning Committees, already approved the development of this property by QuikTrip.
Opponents of Proposition 2 recently claimed in a mailer that “a recent Arizona State University study found convenience stores such as Circle K and QuikTrips generate large numbers of calls about crime.” Wouldn’t the same logic apply to the Takhars Chevron station? However, in all fairness, the inclusion of QuikTrip in the mailer is not accurate. The ASU study actually concluded that Circle K’s “comprised more than half of all police calls to convenience stores in Mesa, Glendale and Tempe in 2010, although the chain makes up no more than a third of convenience stores in each of the cities.”
Further, let’s look at the QuikTrip business model. QuikTrip operates the “Safe Place” program, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides safety for troubled or threatened youth.
According to QT’s website:
Since 1991, QuikTrip has been a designated SafePlace, where runaways and at-risk youth can come in off the street, receive food and drink, and wait for a volunteer from a SafePlace agency partner to connect them with professional help or a place to stay until their situation is resolved.
Need more proof? In February, QuikTrip was named one of the 100 Best Places to Work by Fortune magazine. It was QuikTrip’s fifth consecutive year on the list.
What’s even more impressive is that the honor comes at a time when gas prices are among the highest they have ever been, and competition from supermarkets and hypermarts is as fierce as ever.
Finally, as anyone who frequents QTs can easily recognize, the convenience stores are frequented by law enforcement. It is my understanding that many QTs provide free coffee and even free food for police officers. The Phoenix Police Department utilizes the QT station located at 16th Street and Highland as a police substation, routinely using the back parking lot as a mobile DUI-testing and booking station. In Edwardsville, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, I am personally aware of two QuikTrips that provide space in the back of their properties for police substations because the main police department station is located on the other side of town.
Does this sound like a bad addition to a neighborhood that struggles with crime?
Gurvinder Singh Takhar, the original owner of the Chevron station, apparently is no saint either, having been involved in a nasty family altercation that resulted in domestic violence charges and costly litigation. Takhar also spent time in jail for tax evasion. Court records show he served five months in prison in 2002 and paid $40,000 in fines after he was convicted of felony attempted tax evasion. Phoenix police records show Gurvinder later was denied a liquor license for the AM/PM gas station in Phoenix that is now the Chevron operating under his wife’s name.
Takhar is also politically connected. Takhar hosted a fundraiser for Peggy Neely at his lavish home back in 2010. Neely opposes Proposition 2, along with the other candidates for Mayor.
The opposition to Proposition 2 from the mayoral candidates is likely due to the fact that NAILEM, the largest neighborhood group in the City of Phoenix, opposes the proposition. A sure fire way to lose a large chunk of votes in a low turnout election in the City of Phoenix is to offend neighborhood groups.
There is nothing wrong with a community rallying together and putting forth a referendum to oppose zoning changes made at City Hall. It is the purest form of democracy and the right of the community at the heart of this struggle. In fact, it is believed that this is the first time a referendum will ever appear on a Phoenix City ballot.
However, in the same breath, this effort must also be viewed for what it truly is: one well-financed business owner using the political process and high priced consultants to put another private company out of business.
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