Thursday, May 28, 2009

QuikTrip Wants Variance for Oconee Connector-Daniells Bridge Road

Fewer Trees, Less Buffer, More Parking

QuikTrip Corporation is asking the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to allow it to reduce the number of shade trees, eliminate the minimum screening buffer and allow parking inside setbacks so it can build a gas station and convenience market at the busy Oconee Connector-Daniells Bridge road intersection.

The county’s planning staff has found that the request does not meet the conditions to grant two of the variances and has recommended that the third be denied in part. The county’s Public Works Department did not comment on the first two variances and supported the planning staff recommendation on the third.

The 1.3 acre lot already is zoned for highway business development, so QuikTrip does not need a rezone. What it does want is permission to develop the site at odds with the county’s Uniform Development Code, or the coding regulations of the county.

The Board of Commissioners already has granted QuikTrip a temporary construction and grading easement on the adjacent Fire Station 8.

On June 2, the Board will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to grant the variances.

The proposed gas station would have 16 fueling positions and a 4,555 square foot building for the convenience market and would have entrances from both the Oconee Connector and Daniells Bridge road. The Connector is three lanes wide at that point, while Daniells Bridge road is two lanes wide.

The property is bordered on the north and east by the fire station. Just further east on Daniells Bridge road is a hotel currently under construction. The property for the gas station is owned by A. Paul Keller, Jr., and JJMB, LLC. According to the tax records, the mailing address for Keller and JJMB is 1010 Prince Ave., Athens.

The UDC requires that 14 shade trees with a minimum height of 10 feet be planted in the landscape strip between the gas station and the roadway. QuikTrip only wants to plant seven.

The planning staff said this requested change would result in "reductions to the quality and consistency of the landscaping on the site along one the most traveled corridors of the county."

QuikTrip wants to eliminate the evergreen screening buffer required between the gas station and the fire station.

The planning staff concluded that "If this request were approved to reduce the opaque buffer requirements, substantial detriment to the public good would occur in the forms of a reduction in the rural character of the area and lack of buffering between incompatible land uses."

QuikTrip also wants to be allowed to build two parking spaces inside the 30-foot setback from the right of way for the Oconee Connector and four parking spaces inside the 30-foot setback from the right of way for Daniells Bridge road.

The planning staff–and the Public Works Department–recommended acceptance of the violation of zoning requirements on Daniells Bridge road but not the Connector.

"If this request is approved to allow parking spaces in the required parking space setback along Daniells Bridge road," the staff concluded, "there should not be a substantial detriment to the public good. However, parking spaces inside the setback adjacent to the Oconee Connector should not be allowed."

The report does not explain the difference between an adverse effect for the two roads.

The Oconee County BOC decided on Dec. 4 to spend $400,000 in improvements for Daniells Bridge road to justify its decision to rezone property just east of the blind curve on the road for development of an office park.

Those improvements, which would include an upgrade to the intersection of Daniells Bridge road and the Oconee Connector, has not begun.