Council approves zoning change for new gas station
The Plano City Council went against the recommendation of city staff and approved a zoning change which will pave the way for a new gas station in east Plano.
The RaceTrac gas station will be located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Jupiter and Parker roads, on 3.6 acres of tree-covered property. The station will be located on a triangular piece of land, adjacent to residential property. The proximity to residential zoning is one of the points city staff members objected to.
"One of our concerns is that the requested use is otherwise prohibited given our city's residential adjacency standards requirements," said Tina Firgens, the city's planning manager. "In 1999 we adopted the residential adjacency standards requirements that serve to help preserve and protect the integrity and enjoyment and property values of residential neighborhoods."
She said there is a 150-foot set back requirement from the property line of a gas station to residential zoning, something the current requirement doesn't meet since the RaceTrac property shares a property line with Lucky Layla Farms, a dairy operation which is zoned as agricultural, a type of residential zoning.
Firgens said additional objections stemmed from a 2003 study which stated Plano had an overabundance of vacant retail space, and that staff typically doesn't recommend rezoning small portions of land for a specific user, something she said promotes spot zoning. She there is also 8.7 acres of vacant retail zoning at the intersection, something which has been the case since 1980.
"We believe that the requested zoning is not in consistent with the future land use plan and our comprehensive planning policies," Firgens said. "... We believe that additional retail zoning is not appropriate at this location."
Even with the planning department's objections, the city council followed the planning and zoning commission's lead in unanimously approving the zoning change.
"This is a very strange piece of property," said Councilman Pat Gallagher. "It could be vacant 10 to 15 years from now. It is RaceTrac's dollar, their investment and their risk. If they are successful that area is going to be successful. They are going to bring people to the table."
Mayor Phil Dyer admitted that this could be seen as spot zoning and said that is something the city doesn't want, but said he doesn't know of another alternative in this specific case.
Dallas Cothrum, a representative of Masterplan Consulting, the firm working with RaceTrac on the design of the building, said more stone would be used in construction in order to make the building fit in with other architecture in the area such as the amphitheater at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve. He said the 6,000-square-foot structure will be flanked by extensive landscaping to give it a "green feel."
Cothrum said the gas station is the best use for the property, and added that triangle-shaped parcels of land don't develop well and typically sit vacant for long periods of time. He said the station should be open by January 2013.
"Compared to your other retail that is out there, this has some architectural interest to it and I think the feedback we got from your citizens at the meetings was that they are pleased they are getting something new that is not just generic," he said. "At the first meeting we had there was some trepidation ... and I think we were open to that type of criticism. ... We really want this to be first class, and we think it will be."
Anita James, a representative of RaceTrac, said the station would meet any lighting requirements imposed by the city, a concern raised by Mayor Pro Tem Lissa Smith, who was concerned about light pollution in surrounding residential areas.
Habib Popal, who owns the Shell gas station immediately south of the RaceTrac property, told the council he was worried the new station would put him out of business. He proposed that RaceTrac simply buy him out, an idea that the RaceTrac representatives present at the meeting didn't respond to.
Cothrum and a representative from the Moore family, which owns the dairy, said additional agreements and concessions are still being worked out to ensure the two properties mesh well together, and to ensure both property owners are good neighbors.