BZA Approves Gas Station – Impact?

As a followup to our earlier notes, we wanted to let you know that the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) has made the exception to allow a Gas Station on Rutherford Rd.

Below is an excellent overview of the implications of a decision like this for the Pete Hollis Gateway and Stone Avenue (a North Main Gateway) by one of our neighbors, Mike Mecklenburg.

If you would like to share your thoughts, feel free to use the comments section below this article.
We would like to hear from you. 

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Hello Neighborhood Associations:

 This evening the BZA approved the special exception to build a “convenience store” at 40 Rutherford in the Pete Hollis Gateway master plan area .  From what I understand, this term store is not quite accurate – it will actually be a large gas station similar to the Spinx on Pleasantburg or other such roadside establishments.  We all know what these look like, but here is a link to Quik Trip’s website: http://www.quiktrip.com/.   I further understand this business will operate 24/7.  The planning staff recommended approval of this special exception within the Pete Hollis Gateway master plan area.  Under current zoning ordinances, they seem to have had little choice.  As we have all learned, notions of “intensive use” and “nuisances” are grey areas and open to interpretations.  If a business or operation is not specifically disallowed, then it is probably allowed.  Furthermore, despite the laudable vision of the Pete Hollis master plan, the plan does not trump zoning and nor does the plan seem to allow for any special considerations apart from whatever the current zoning ordinances are for that area.  The area is zoned for redevelopment and the site is currently occupied by a vacant garage.

Although adjacent to the Pete Hollis Gateway, the Earle and James Street Association was not consulted on this matter.  However, this gas station had significant support at the BZA hearing from the two neighborhood associations that were consulted – Viola and Southernside.  Apparently these parties (and Quik Trip) believe that this operation will provide jobs, enhance a blighted commercial corridor and spur additional development. What kind of development, what sort of jobs and whether we exchange one form of blight for another is certainly debatable.

The issue that remains is how this gas  station is going to appear.  To this end, the BZA was also scheduled to hear an application by this same business for a zoning variance to build the store structure further away from Rutherford to presumably accommodate parking and/or gas pumps under a canopy.  This discussion was tabled until next month as the city planning staff and Quik Trip continue discussions as to how and where the business and its various elements could be located on the site.  At this point, Quik Trip has provided no renderings, elevations or alternate site plans – so no design elements are  available for view or comments.  The next BZA hearing is December 16th.

 Couple of thoughts:

 1.       What makes city planning so interesting (and frustrating) is that it is a balancing act between various conflicting interests: neighborhoods, economic development, property rights and visions for the future.  It involves a lot of compromise and — hopefully — discussion.  Nevertheless, I truly fail to understand how a large 24/7 gas station sitting on a couple acres of asphalt is compatible with some of the critical aspects  of the Pete Hollis Gateway master plan: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/PlanningZoning/forms/PeteHollisGatewayPlan.pdf.  To echo the comments of others, surely at this critical gateway to downtown Greenville, we can do better than a 24/7 Quik Trip.  And if our zoning, design guidelines and/or master plans do not give us the tools we need, then we need different tools.

 2.        To all of you involved in the master plan for Stone Avenue, this is clear wake-up call.  Again, to echo others, unless we have the ability to effectively implement the visions on which we have spent so much time and money, those visions will remain just that.  A Stone Avenue master plan by itself – without revisiting the zoning codes and design guideline issues —  is no guarantee of anything at all.  Please keep this in mind when we go to the Stone Avenue master plan presentation on Tuesday, December 14th from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Hughes library.

Best,
Mike Mecklenberg

BZA Approves Gas Station – Impact?
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