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Council faces unique zoning request: Two-hour extension granted to Plano Parkway gas station
A unique zoning request came before the Plano City Council Monday night.
At question was whether the city should limit the hours of operation for the RaceTrac gas station, located at the northeast corner of Independence Parkway and Plano Parkway. Currently, a deed restriction allows the station to operate for only 17 hours a day, rather than the 24 hours other RaceTrac stations are open.
"The city typically does not impose or enforce deed restrictions, nor does it limit the hours of operation for businesses within the city," said Tina Firgens, the city's planning manager. "Instead, the city has adopted ordinances which limit noise and lighting."
RaceTrac lies within the only planned development in the city where operating hour restrictions are in place, Firgens said.
The restrictions came about in 1987, when residents from the North Dallas Estates, which lies just north of the development, asked the city to limit the hours of operation for any businesses built on the then-undeveloped piece of property. The city agreed, and the 17-hour restriction went into effect, with the "preferable" hours of operation being from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
"It was a compromise that was done back then that was hammered out over two years," said Robert Miller, president of the North Dallas Estates HOA. "One of the compromises that we did at that time was that 'you can have retail there, you just can't stay open all night.'"
RaceTrac was aware of the restrictions when it purchased the property and when the store was opened in 2007, said RaceTrac attorney Tommy Mann. The company understands the noise and lighting concerns of the neighbors, Mann said, but felt other ordinances are in place to offer protection for homeowners.
"The bulk of the revenue we are losing is between the hours of 11 p.m. to midnight and from the early commute starting at 5 a.m.," Mann said. "So, it certainly helps to go from 17 to 19 hours, but we still think that making us shut down from 12 to 5 creates an operating inefficiency and a burden on RaceTrac without a corresponding benefit to the neighbors."
The Planning and Zoning Commission denied the company's request to allow for 24-hour operations, but recommended extending the station's operating hours from 5 a.m. to midnight.
RaceTrac attorney Tommy Mann said he appreciated the offer of the two-hour extension, but said it would still handicap the company and not allow the station to operate on a level playing field with its competitors.
Council members were divided on whether to grant the extension or remove the restrictions altogether.
"I understand the homeowners' situation, but there are a whole lot of retail and gas stations in the rest of our city that are a lot closer to residences and we don't get calls every day," Councilman Jim Duggan said.
While not disputing the fact that gas stations may not cause problems, Councilman Pat Miner said he could not support doing away with the restrictions.
"I am one of those that wants free enterprise to be the way it is, but it is like Robert said, these guys came into this with full knowledge, knowing exactly what they had," he said. "... They didn't have to buy the property. ... If they bought it, then buyer beware."
The council required a supermajority vote -- six out of eight council members -- to approve any changes to the ordinance. This number proved hard to reach, with two votes on the 19-hour restriction failing 5 votes to 3. It was only after the deadlocked council realized RaceTrac would be stuck with the 17-hour restrictions that the 19-hour restrictions were approved unanimously.