Monday, March 14, 2011

Oconee County Commissioners Approve One More Gas Station and Convenience Store for SR 316

Competition by Tree Clustering

After a four-month delay, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on March 1 cleared the way for the county to get another gas station and convenience store.

This one—slated to be a RaceTrac--will be at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and U.S. 78, diagonal to an existing BP Station. Both the existing BP and the proposed new RaceTrac are just a short distance from the U.S. 78 intersection with SR 316.

The BOC actually approved the rezone for the gas station and convenience store at its regular meeting on Nov. 2, but the approved plans did not fit the 2.4-acre lot and could not work unless the county set aside a zoning rule.

The developers wanted to reduce the buffer between the property and the adjoining property on Mars Hill Road, zoned for agriculture, from 50 feet to 13 feet.

Insert RaceTrac on right, as
Mars Hill Road meets U.S. 78.

The concept plan submitted with the rezone shows parking and a driveway extending into the 50-foot buffer.

Jon Williams of Williams & Associates, representing RaceTrac Petroleum, Inc., asked the Board in November to approve the rezone, even though it didn’t fit zoning rules, but to table action on a variance request to allow the intrusion into the buffer.

Williams said he was “contractually obligated to continue with the rezone” request and was asking the Board to help him by dealing with the rezone even though he did not have a resolution to the variance issue.

The BOC went along with Williams’ request.

The Commission was scheduled to take up that variance request at its meetings in December. Williams again asked for and got a postponement.

The same thing happened in January and February.

On Feb. 15, Troy W. Porterfield Jr. of Monroe, who owns the adjoining 20-acre plot at 4060 Mars Hill Road, sent the county a letter saying he had met with the applicants “and reviewed their plans.”

He said he didn’t need any buffer at all between the incompatible rezones, and that is what the BOC approved on March 1.

The November BOC vote changed the zoning for the 2.4-acre lot from Industrial to B-2, or Highway Business District.

The property is owned by Southeastern PVC Pipe Mfg., Inc. Kenneth Orkin is named as the representative of Southeastern PVC Pipe Mfg. in the rezone submittal.

Orkin, of Marietta, is the CEO of Southeastern PVC Pipe Mfg. Inc., according to the Georgia Secretary of State corporation database.

The lot has never been developed, according to planning documents, and is wooded. It is a separated parcel of what is often referred to as the Orkin Tract. The bulk of that 384-acre tract, considered a prime development site in the area, lies north of SR 316 and west of U.S. 78.

The proposed convenience store will be 7,600 square feet in size and have a brick fa├žade, according to the plans submitted by Williams.

The gas station will have 18 fueling positions under a canopy.

The property is proposed to have entrances on both Mars Hill Road and U.S. 78.

In addition to the buffer variance, Williams also wanted to reduce the number of required trees on the developed site and to cluster them, rather than spread them across the green space on the property.

Williams wrote in planning documents that the change was “to allow for enhanced visibility of an upscale commercial development.”

Williams was allowed by the BOC to cluster his trees, but not reduce their number. Commissioner Chuck Horton voted against the tree variance request but for the rezone.

Commissioner John Daniell recused himself from all the votes on the project, including the repeated tabling of the buffer variance request, because the company he works for, Boswell Oil, does business with RaceTrac.

As recently as June of 2009, the BOC dealt with a similar problem of a planned gas station and convenience store that did not fit the lot for which it was proposed.

QuikTrip was before the BOC with its plans to build a gas station and convenience store on a 1.3-acre lot at the intersection of Mars Hill Road, the Oconee Connector and Daniells Bridge Road.

That station and store are three miles from the proposed RaceTrac and also just off SR 316.

QuikTrip asked for—and got—permission to put some of its parking spaces in the 30-foot setbacks from the Oconee Connector ansd Daniells Bridge Road.

QuikTrip also said it needed to have fewer trees and have them clustered so drivers on could see the facility.

The BOC said the station could not reduce the number of trees and could not cluster them.

QuikTrip has generated a lot of traffic despite the trees and how they are planted.

By the end of the year, according to the schedule Williams submitted with the rezone application, RaceTrac will join QuikTrip in the heavily gas-stationed and convenience-stored area around SR 316.

RaceTrac will have the advantage of clustered trees--quite a plus, according to Williams--in its competition for the attention of potential customers.