City officials last week rejected a controversial plan for a 24-hour Sheetz gas station at the corner of New Hope and Buffaloe roads.
By a unanimous voice vote, the City Council denied a rezoning application that would have cleared the way for the station.
Many residents in nearby neighborhoods had been vocal opponents of the application. They worried that a gas station would erode the character of their neighborhoods, fearing increased trash, traffic and loitering. Hundreds of neighbors signed petitions against the application.
Michi Vojta, a resident who helped lead the opposition, said neighbors are relieved by the council’s vote but will be watching closely to see what, if any, plans are announced for the property or nearby in the future.
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“There will be a lot of people paying attention,” she said.
There is a two-year waiting period before anyone can propose rezoning the property. An applicant can request that the waiting period be waived though.
At the council’s August meeting, Councilman John Odom said the developers had indicated they were willing to pull a gas station from the list of accepted uses for the property, but they ultimately did not submit any last-minute changes to their application.
The council did not discuss the application before the vote. Odom and Councilman Russ Stephenson had previously noted their objections to the plan, saying they did not think a gas station was an appropriate fit for a residential neighborhood.
Because of a special petition submitted by nearby residents, a super majority of the council would have had to vote in favor of the application.
Walkable shopping areas
After the vote, Stephenson said the controversy around the proposed rezoning highlights the need for a discussion about how to create walkable shopping areas that will be appealing to nearby residents, unlike the Sheetz proposal.
The city’s new land use and development rules, known as the unified development ordinance, took effect Sept. 1, and Stephenson said the council should figure out how those rules can advance the goal of walkable neighborhoods.
“This is all brand new; we’ve never used this UDO before,” Stephenson said. “Can we have a conversation about how we’re actually going to use these tools to create more walkable retail centers?”
The discussion will be on the agenda for a future meeting of the council’s comprehensive planning committee.