Some residents are angry that a developer could build a gas station near their residential neighborhood in Wake Forest.
The town’s Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning request this month to allow a gas station on a 2.9-acre parcel of land at the corner of Burlington Mills and Ligon Mill roads. The planning commission had unanimously recommended elected leaders deny the request, after hearing from more than 20 residents who spoke out against the plan.
Some residents say they worry a gas station could attract crime and that gasoline could leak into groundwater. But commissioners say the project would lead to traffic improvements at the busy intersection at no cost to the town, because the developer would have to pay.
Property owner and developer Jim Adams said he won’t break ground at the site for a few years. He plans to create a shopping center with several businesses, and he pushed to add gas stations to the list of permitted uses.
“All the operators that I’ve ever talked with wanted fuel as a component of a convenience store,” he said.
Adams first applied to change the zoning from residential to commercial in 2005 but withdrew the application, said Charlie Yokley, assistant planning director for Wake Forest.
The Board of Commissioners approved his rezoning request in 2007 but prohibited gas stations at the site. In 2011, Adams applied to request the addition of gas stations but withdrew the application again, Yokley said.
Commissioner Jim Thompson said the zoning change, filed in January, was a tough decision for him. He ran for the commission in 2013 on a pro-development platform, and he said a new shopping center would generate needed tax revenue for the town.
Thompson, who said he lives about a half-mile from a gas station, said he and fellow commissioner Brian Pate heard neighbors’ concerns. But after doing research, he felt better knowing that new pumps and double-walled fiberglass tanks would reduce the amount of vapors and prevent gas from leaking.
“The risk is minimal, considering the benefits,” Thompson said.
Commissioner Margaret Stinnett was the only commissioner who voted against the request.
About 8,000 vehicles travel on Burlington Mills Road at Ligon Mill Road each day, according to a 2013 state Department of Transportation survey. In 1998, the number was about 2,500.
Michael Wysocky’s property borders the proposed site, now a wooded lot. He said commissioners didn’t consider him or his neighbors in their decision.
“From their own comments, it’s all about money and generating the revenue for enhancing the roadway,” he said.
Wysocky’s home is in the Deer Chase subdivision, outside town limits, and draws water from one of seven wells in the area that sit close to where the gas station would be.
He said he knew the land was eventually going to be commercially developed when he and his family moved to Deer Chase three years ago.
“I don’t think any one of the neighbors are opposed to the development of that property,” he said. “They’re opposed to a gas station.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi