Eric Eberhardt, representing QuikTrip, was emphatic in telling the Oconee County Planning Commission last month that the gas station and convenience store his company wants to build opposite the intersection of North Main Street and U.S 441 Bypass north of Watkinsville has truck bays but is not a truck stop.
Ben Qualls, real estate manager for QuikTrip, told the Commission that QuikTrip knows what a truck stop is since it operates them elsewhere, and what is being proposed at that site is not a truck stop.
That argument didn’t convince the three speakers who came to the podium following Eberhardt in the public hearing to express opposition to the project.
All of them said they didn’t want the trucks they said the new gas station and convenience store with the truck bays are likely to attract.
The argument by Eberhardt and Qualls satisfied four of the five Commission members, who voted to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that it vote on Tuesday to approve the rezone being requested by QuikTrip as well as a special use, allowing QuikTrip to include the three bays for diesel trucks.
The Board of Commissioners, at its Tuesday meeting, also will decide if Joe Irving should be allowed to install solar panels in what technically is his front yard but actually is behind his house.
They also will decide if they want to give Thomas and Theresa Haddock a variance for a storage garage for a golf cart that they already have built too close to a neighbor’s house.
That meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
Eberhardt’s law firm, Eberhardt and Hale LLP, on behalf of QuikTrip, is seeking to rezone 6.3 acres to B-2 (Highway Business) for the proposed gas station and convenience store.
|Eberhardt Before Planning Commission|
Screen Shot 6/19/2023
QuikTrip also is seeking a special use approval to construct the diesel truck refueling bays.
Access to the proposed gas station and convenience store would be via a fourth side to the existing three-sided traffic signal at the intersection of U.S. 441 and SR 15 (North Main Street).
The 6.3 acre parcel would be carved from two larger parcels currently zoned AR (Agricultural Residential) that abut the University of Georgia Durham Horticulture Farm and a tract of the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research Center.
Kerry Barwick and Ken Barwick, through Jacobs Properties LLLP, currently own the two properties, both of which have frontage on U.S. 441.
Eberhardt told the Commission he was representing both QuikTrip and Jacobs Properties LLLP and that the property to be rezoned is under contract with QuikTrip.
QuikTrip is purchasing all of the 22.5 acre parcel abutting the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research Center property, Eberhardt said, and acreage from the remaining parcel in order to include the existing stub for access to the property opposite the North Main Street intersection with the U.S. 441 Bypass.
In total, he said, QuikTrip will be purchasing 26 acres, though the rezone request is only for 6.3 of those acres.
Eberhardt And Truck Stops
“There is something that I think needs to be made very clear,” Eberhardt said in his comments to the Commission at the beginning of the June 19 public hearing on the zoning request. “While we are required to move forward with this request as a special use, referred to as a truck stop, this is not a truck stop property.”
“Let’s just address that right up front,” he said. “All that QuikTrip desires to do is provide, I think it is three bays, for the purpose of refueling.”
Eberhardt turned to Qualls, who confirmed that it is three bays.
“They way it is being developed is going to basically eliminate the ability for trucks to linger,” Eberhardt said. “There is no place for them to park in our development.”
“They have room to turnaround and exit from their entryway,” he said, “but there is no parking, and we intend to continue to maintain that.”
“There is not a sit down kitchen or restaurant at this particular QuikTrip development,” he said “We do anticipate that we will have the kitchen itself. So there will be made-to-order food for people to take off site.”
“But there is no intention for people to be able to congregate as you would anticipate in a restaurant,” he said. “It is important that that distinction be made.”
All three of the citizens who spoke in opposition to the rezone and special use request were from Summit Grove subdivision.
|Mauck Before Planning Commission|
Screen Shot 6/19/2023
Julie Mauck, the first of those speakers, said “there are about 100 homes right across the street” from the proposed QuikTrip. “I really feel like a truck stop in that area...doesn’t conform to what that area is.”
“There is the Oconee County Admin building. There are is a gymnastics place there. A day care there. We have a fire station there. It is fairly family oriented area. Lots of families driving in that area.”
“Maybe save the development of that parcel for something a little more palatable to the people who live there,” she said.
Rob Caskey said the demand for gas stations is going to decrease as more electric personal vehicles are on the road. As a result, the proposed QuikTrip will become a “commercial refueling station” in the future, he said.
“I’m not opposed to truckers taking a shower at a gas station,” he said. “It doesn’t offend me. I’m not opposed to them sitting down and eating at a food court, eating pizza at a truck stop. The thing I’m concerned about is the traffic impairment and the noise and to some extent the sight.”
Marla Tschepikow said the availability of the diesel bays for truck will increase the truck traffic on North Main Street through Watkinsville.
“This most definitely is going to decrease my personal property value,” she said. “I really don’t want to come out of my neighborhood to a gas station and all of the traffic.”
Discussion Before Vote
Following the public hearing, Qualls said that QuikTrip did not want to purchase all of the 22.5 acre parcel but did so only because the seller said “you have to buy it all.” Eberhardt said there currently are no plans for use of that property.
“I wanted to address this idea that that the trucks are going to be unsightly,” Eberhardt said. “I can appreciate that concern. But the location for the refueling of trucks is behind this store.”
The trucks will make a U-turn behind the convenience store and exist via the single entrance on U.S. 441, Qualls said.
“Not only is there no restaurant,” Eberhardt said. “There’s so showers or anything of that type here.”
“We have travel center buildings,” Qualls said. “And they are two to three thousand square feet larger than this one. And they carry specialty mirrors for trucks and mud flaps, diesel additives."
“We have scales on them, and this has none of that,” he said.
The store will be open 24 hours a day, Qualls said, as is the case for the more than 1,000 gas stations the company operates.
“We currently do not have EV stations planned for this location,” he said.
Commission Member Chris Herring voted against the two motions, one recommending the rezone and the other the special use.
Variance Request For Solar Panels
Joe Irving, 1117 Knob Creek Drive, is requesting a variance from the Oconee County Unified Development Code to place a ground-mounted solar energy system in the front yard of his property.
The 9.6 acre parcel has frontage both on Knob Creek Drive and Mason Mill Road, both of which intersect with Spartan Lane in the northeast of the county.
The county planning staff has recommended approval of the request.
“The proposed location of the solar array is technically in the front yard relative to Mason Mill Road, although the proposed location is actually to the rear of the existing residence,” according to the Staff Report.
“Staff holds that approval of the request to construct two solar panel arrays in the front yard location shown on the site plan should not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of nearby properties due to the size and configuration of the property as well as the existing vegetative buffers that are adjacent to the adjacent residences,” according to the report.
Variance Request For Golf Cart Garage
Thomas and Theresa Haddock, 1520 Autumn Park, off Barber Creek Road in the far northwest of the county, are seeking a Special Exception Variance to reduce the side building setback from 7.5 feet to 2.2 feet for a golf cart enclosure.
The enclosure, which already has been built, “shares a wall and roof addition with the existing residence,” according to the staff report, and the county’s Unified Development Code requires a setback of 7.5 feet for the side yard.
“The golf cart enclosure has already been built, but is not in compliance with the code,” according to the Staff Report.
“Based upon the standards and limitations for special exception variance approval,” according to the Staff Report, “this request does not meet all necessary conditions to grant a special exception variance.”
If the Board decides to grant the variance, the Staff Report recommends, “A vegetative buffer shall be installed between the addition to the existing residence and the property line to the northwest in order to provide vegetative screening between the structure and the adjacent property.”
The video below is on the county YouTube Channel.
The QuikTrip rezone was the sole item on the agenda, since variance requests are not heard by the Planning Commission.
The meeting begins at 8:52 in the video.