Despite opposition from area residents, Delaware’s City Planning Commission has unanimously approved preliminary plans for a Speedway gas station and convenience store on U.S. 23 North and Hills Miller Road.
The commission had initially considered the matter in a packed City Hall on Sept. 2, where area residents said they didn’t want the Speedway to be used as an overnight truck stop. That meeting took 3½ hours. Although no decision was reached, the commission did add a 20th condition to the plans — “that no commercial, truck trailer, campers, or motor home traffic be allowed on the property over one hour.”
On Wednesday, the commission picked up where it left off, but only took a half-hour to make a decision. Members asked if they had the authority to limit fueling hours for semi-trucks or to mandate the types of fuel dispensed. City Planning Director David Efland said no.
There was also discussion about whether truck headlights would disturb residents and whether a sidewalk should be installed for easier pedestrian access to the convenience store.
In response to a commission question, Speedway officials said they would designate another 1.3 acres of the 13-acre property to be a dedicated nature easement, bringing the undisturbed area up to 4.28 acres. Speedway has said it will develop 4.8 acres of the property it purchased last year.
The gas station would have seven fueling bays for passenger vehicles and four diesel fueling bays east of the store for semi-trucks. There would be 32 parking spaces, but “no parking spaces for semi-trucks are provided and no overnight parking signs would be posted throughout the site,” the city staff report said. “Speedway has volunteered that their personnel would actively monitor the truck areas to ensure that no trucks are parking on the site long-term or overnight.”
The staff report also said, “The site would be accessed by a right-in/right-out curb cut on U.S. 23, while a full-movement curb cut would be located on Hills Miller Road.” Commission member James Halter asked if the curb cuts could be designed so they would harder to enter illegally. He was told that wouldn’t be practical because emergency vehicles also use the curb cuts.
Chairwoman Lisa Keller reminded the commission members that the property, which was annexed into the city in 1968, is zoned as a general business district, and allows for a gas station. She said that if the property had different zoning, the commission would have more leeway in turning down Speedway’s request. However, since Speedway owns the property and wants to use it in a way that is permitted, official opposition could be considered as a violation of Speedway’s property rights.
A couple of dozen people attended the meeting, some of them expecting to speak against Speedway. Among their past concerns had been an increase in traffic, more possible crashes, truck idling, overnight parking, and pollution. However, Keller said the public had already had its chance to speak at the previous meeting.
After the vote, much of the public left, and someone left a message on the sign-in sheet — “Thanks for nothing!”
The preliminary plan will next go before City Council for approval, which will likely have a public hearing at its second reading where the public can speak. If council passes the preliminary plan, Speedway would then seek approval of its more detailed final development plan from planning and council in a similar process.
If all the approvals are met, Speedway would begin construction next spring and open in the fall.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.