Gas stations—who needs ’em, right? Not in our backyards, thank you.
This sentiment is the essence of a text change approved by the City Council’s Comprehensive Planning Committee last week to limit fuel sales in certain residential areas—the full City Council will vote this afternoon whether to accept the committee's recommendation. (This particular zoning, NX, has also seen disputes over food trucks, which are presently not allowed, and bars, which can exist but can’t have dance floors).
The text change limits gas stations in several ways: it restricts hours of operation (for the pumps, not the convenience stores), proximity to homes and intersections, and the number of pumps allowed, as well as measures to limit noise and light pollution.
Not so onerous, right?
Wrong! Well, at least if you ask the Sheetz site selector, whose entire business model is basically being dumped on here.
Jamie Gerhart says the limit on hours of operation is arbitrary, and besides, don’t we live in a 24-hour society? “No North Carolina zoning district has across-the-board hours of operations restrictions,” he told the committee. “It sends an unwelcome signal to businesses.”
Gerhart found a sympathizer in Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who said forcing gas pumps to close at 11 is “silly,” when the rest of the station—its convenience store, for example—is allowed to stay open. Imagine the WTF scenario of a driver who shows up at 11:01 and realizes that, though the station looks open, he can’t actually get gas.
“I would think the City Council was a bunch of idiots,” Gaylord said.
We think that all the time, councilman. (Oh, pipe down. We kid because we love.)
Anyway, point taken, but if you’re a resident, especially one with kids, the gas station rules don’t go far enough. What about those people who drive up with their “boomboxes” blasting (because it’s 1995 up in here) and their windows open?, a resident wondered. This is a quality of life issue.
Resident Michi Vojta told the committee she doesn’t think any kind of 24/7 operation should be allowed next to homes. “It’s ridiculous to say when you’re running out of gas, you can’t drive two miles” to the nearest pump, said Vojta, who clearly never lets her gauge dip below E.
The only folks happy with the text change were the small convenience store-gas station combos, the Mom-and-Pops that close early anyway and already meet most of the regulations the change would impose. (And if they don’t, they’d be grandfathered in, so NBD.)
No wonder attorney Tom Worth, who represents some of these small gas stations including Erwin Oil Co., called the text change “a compromise between the neighborhood side and the industry side.”
Hey, at least someone was happy.