Supervisors trim massive gas station plan

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They met in living rooms to craft arguments, stood on the curb of Route 250 to plot traffic flow and conferred with hydrology experts. And on October 13, roughly 40 concerned Crozetians endured a six-hour Board of Supervisors meeting to voice their concerns.

In the end, residents largely got what they wanted: a scaled down plan for a gas station on Route 250 West that will not significantly disrupt the area’s rural character or deplete the local well water supply. The initial plan for the Re-Store ’N Station would have created the second largest gas station in Albemarle County.

“It was community activism at its best,” said Bruce Kirtley, a Crozet resident whose white house sits across the street from the proposed station’s four-acre site. Supervisors agreed to shrink the two-story station from 5,750 square feet to about 3,000. Overnight parking was also banned to prevent the station from becoming a hub for tractor trailers seeking respite from I-64.

“We want to have moderate and manageable growth in the area,” Supervisor Ken Boyd told C-VILLE, “and I think [Crozetians] had a very good point in leading us to revise this.” The compromise, said Boyd, maintains “a viable business opportunity”—15 to 18 jobs that the station owners say their business will create, as well as “opportunities for county tax revenues to help us offset some of the strain on personal property taxes.”

Recent development in Crozet—and the accompanying traffic and demand for stores and restaurants—has compelled long-time residents to scrutinize new projects. With the Re-Store ’N Station, residents’ major concerns surrounded traffic and water supply. The sizeable station would attract I-64 drivers to a location less than a mile from Western Albemarle High School, Henley Middle and Brownsville Elementary, which residents feared might add to the congested morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up. Additionally, if the station surpassed its allotted water usage, neighbors’ wells could dry up.

Neither the county nor the station’s owners provided a detailed traffic study. And while the owners did supply a groundwater study by a certified geologist, the county did not conduct an independent analysis. Albemarle’s website shows that its “Groundwater Manager” and “Transportation Planner” positions are both vacant—which irked Mary Rice, former member of the Crozet Community Advisory Council.

“A lot of our analysis helped educate the board because the planning staff didn’t do much homework on this,” Rice told C-VILLE. “As we know from the staff report, all they could say was that they didn’t have sufficient data to say whether or not the wells nearby would fail.”

The lack of county data prompted Tom Goeke, owner of a house that sits 1,000′ from the proposed station, to generate his own water usage study. Goeke, CEO of Gordonsville-based Klockner Pentaplast, studied transportation engineering journals, interviewed station owners and consulted with hydrology experts to produce a thorough overview showing that the station would use about 2,600 gallons of water per day.

Goeke’s findings were crucial because water usage was the reason the issue was sent to the Board in the first place. The county’s deputy zoning administrator was uncertain whether the station would stay within its 1,624 gallons per day limit, so he required that the station’s owners acquire a special-use permit asking for more water usage.

Supervisors’ consideration of citizen data and concerns showed Kirtley that government competence exists in Albemarle.

“If you have an issue and you’re realistic in your approach, you apply a little common sense and talk it over one-on-one with the elected officials, generally speaking, they’re probably going to get it as right as they possibly can,” says Kirtley. “And I think that’s what happened here.”

The revised proposal now returns to the desks of the county’s planning staff and its Architectural Review Board, who will work with the Re-Store ’N Station owners to craft a formal request that the Board will vote on during its November 3 meeting.

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