Neighbors believe the expansion of a gas station at a busy North Limestone Street intersection could lead to increased traffic and crime plus affect their ability to use nearby alleys in inclement weather.
The company, a top 10 employer in Clark County, wants to vacate the alley behind the store at 1147 N. Limestone St. and tear down two adjacent buildings — including a vacant home on McCreight Avenue and the former Hair Design Plus on Limestone — in order to build a 3,900 square-foot convenience store.
The current location is about 2,200 square feet, meaning the addition would be about 77 percent larger. The expansion would allow for 27 parking spots, up from 15, but no more pumps will be added.
“All I can see is double the number of people and double the amount of traffic trying to get in and out of there,” Mike Peairs, who has lived with his wife Deborah at 119 E. McCreight for more than 35 years, said. “There’s going to be more problems than there are right now.”
City commission will vote at its July 23 meeting on the rezoning. Last week, commissioners held public hearings for both the rezoning of several properties and alley vacation around the gas station and convenience store.
City staff has recommended approval of the rezoning, which allow the properties to be rezoned from residential and commercial highway to community commercial districts.
In May, the City Planning Board voted 6-2 in favor of the request from CESO Inc., an architecture firm in Columbus. The board also voted 8-0 to vacate the alley behind the Speedway in order to allow for additional screening and fencing.
“I’m real concerned,” Peairs said. “I’m not really upset if they wanted to go south and take that property, but vacating the alley could be a real hardship at times for us.”
The rezoning must be approved by the city commission. If the rezoning is approved, the applicant must seek a conditional use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals before construction can begin. They’ll likely appear before BZA on Aug. 19, where residents will have an opportunity to comment on finalized plans for things such as fencing and lighting.
There is no timetable for when construction would be expected to begin, if approved, according to Speedway officials.
Pat O’Connor, 1122 Garfield Ave., believes the rezoning will be “incompatible with a neighborhood environment.”
“In this case, there will clearly be an increase in bright light all night long and a very definite increase in traffic generation,” O’Connor said.
Speedway will eliminate the entrance nearest Limestone and McCreight, an area that commissioners believe is dangerous for drivers.
The application shows the area between Speedway and the homes is about 16 feet. With the expansion, the area will be approximately 29.7 feet.
Commissioner Kevin O’Neill, who has lived in the neighborhood for many years, said he has concerns about changing the alley system but believes the setbacks from the store have to be greater than normal.
“(People) use those alleys for transportation,” O’Neill said. “I feared it wasn’t going to be a great distance.”
The alley on McCreight would be vacated, but another alley would be changed to a turnaround, something the city wouldn’t recommend, according to Bryan Heck, the city’s planning and zoning administrator. Heck said the turnaround won’t greatly affect the neighborhood.
The Peairs both spoke against the alley vacation because they said it would be too difficult to leave their home during a snowstorm. The alleys are currently maintained by residents, not the city.
“You really can’t get out there if there’s any ice or snow in the winter, except that way,” Mike Peairs said.
Deborah Peairs said she believes trash will be dumped and vagrants will congregate in the dead end.
“I think it will be even more enticing for them if there’s less traffic,” Deborah Peairs said.
Residents who use the alleys also pull through the lot at the former Hair Design Plus on Limestone St., but it would be closed if the rezoning is approved.
A similar expansion is happening in South Vienna, where the company purchased a home near its location at 213 N. Urbana St.
Last year, Enon-based Speedway acquired almost 100 new gas stations in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The company is Clark County’s sixth-largest employer.
The company owns more than 1,460 stores in seven Midwestern states and ranks as the fourth largest chain of gas stations in the country.
Springfield News-Sun city reporter Michael Cooper is committed to covering the effects of planning and zoning issues in the city, including recent stories on a new Dunkin’ Donuts location and the rejected salvage yard on Sheridan Avenue.