The United Dairy Farmers (UDF) gas station, located at 123 W. William St., could soon be getting a significant upgrade.
The Delaware Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a Preliminary Development Plan for UDF to reconstruct the gas station.
Currently, the gas station spans approximately 3,350 square feet. UDF had previously purchased the three properties directly east of the gas station, and those buildings have since been demolished. With final approval by Delaware City Council, UDF would also demolish the existing gas station structures to make way for a new, 4,061-square-foot gas station. The new site would have three total access points on West William Street and South Liberty Street, 26 parking spaces, and the number of pumps would increase to four pumps and eight total nozzles.
The West William Street access points would include a right-in, right-out-only curb cut and a full-movement curb cut that would be shared with Tim Hortons if an easement agreement can be reached with Tim Hortons. Along South Liberty Street, the full-movement access point would essentially remain where it is currently located.
Many steps still remain before UDF can receive final approval on the project, Planning and Zoning Administrator Lance Schultz said during Wednesday’s meeting. Several zoning approvals will be required, including the Conditional Use Permit that planning commission approved on Wednesday, which is required for both the gas station itself and construction within the 100-year floodplain. Both the existing structure and the proposed structure exist within the city’s 100-year floodplain.
In addition to the Conditional Use Permit, the developers will need to go before the Delaware Board of Zoning Appeals next week to request a buffer setback variance in order to start construction within 15 feet of the Delaware Run buffer zone. The existing UDF gas station currently sets within the 15-foot setback, with the piped Delaware Run flowing under most of the building and pump canopy. Both the building and the canopy exist within the floodway for the Delaware Run, and they would remain within the floodway under the current proposal.
Should the project receive final approval, the main building would be shifted further east, with only a small portion of the building existing over the piped Delaware Run.
“Staff takes all floodplain cases very seriously, and reviews these with a highly critical level of scrutiny,” said Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland in the staff report. “Obviously, in an undeveloped portion of the run area, staff would recommend holding setbacks to that if the floodplain at a minimum, but this is located within the built urban portion of the already channelized run. Finding reasonable ways to allow for continued investment in already-developed properties while at least not negatively impacting the run, and potentially improving it over time, is the recommended approach where site-specific conditions warrant.
“The proposal here, while slightly increasing the amount of the run which is piped, would actually set the proposed building back slightly further from the run and floodway than it currently is, while significantly enhancing circulation and safety both in the site and to the adjacent street network.”
Efland went on to state in the report that because the current UDF and three demolished properties do exist within the floodplain, the sites would not be permitted to have any sort of construction on them in the future if “an alternative cannot be approved or technically demonstrated.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Efland said, “I think there is probably a temptation, for some, to overvalue the flooding events we had earlier this year with respect to this site. I would submit that nobody at this meeting has felt (that impact) more directly than the applicant, UDF. They are certainly the last individuals on this call who would be interested in making this situation any more impactful to themselves or anybody else in the run community as a result. They’ve submitted the code-required studies to demonstrate to our floodplain administrator and our engineers that they’ve, in fact, met the intent and the letter of the regulations with respect to that.”
Delaware Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum said the positives of the project are that it is allowing a long-time business to expand and grow their business, keeping jobs in the city, and bringing traffic improvements to an area that, between the gas station and the nearby Tim Hortons, can be an issue, especially during the morning.
The proposal received the support of all but one of the commission members. Commissioner Jim Halter, who was the lone vote against the project, said that after living on “the creek” for 25 years, he has seen water rising above the creek bed more than he ever has in the past.
“I’m concerned that when we build this in the floodway, it’ll form a bit of a dam in there, no matter how you do it,” Halter said, adding that his property and neighboring properties would be the most affected if that were to happen.
Efland said that during the May flooding, there was still room in the piped portions of the Run, suggesting that it isn’t the pipe, itself, that is contributing to the flooding. Deputy City Engineer Matt Weber said stream hydraulics is “one of the most complex disciplines in civil engineering,” and with that comes many regulations that are in place to protect against potential issues such as those expressed by Halter.
Weber went on to say that the structure underneath the current UDF is “substandard,” and “just replacing the culvert with this project … that’s an improvement in the capacity of that pipe. That probably offsets any insignificant barriers that a very minor addition to the length of the culvert would cause.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.