Facing a series of public objections over the scale and traffic and water impacts of the proposed ReStoreN Station on Rt. 250, just west of Western Albemarle High School, Albemarle County Supervisors approved a special use permit for the gas station/convenience store Oct. 13 with conditions that reduced its scale and tried to constrain it to operating within its water limit of 1,624 gallons per day.
Speakers opposing the station argued that a traffic study of the station’s impact and a water study that looked at its well’s effects on the wells supplying homes in nearby Freetown were prerequisite to making a decision on a permit. Freetown resident Richard Brown showed supervisors the locations of houses around the project whose wells had run dry during drought conditions, one fairly recently.
Development consultant Jo Higgins assured the board that the station could operate within its water limit and that owner Jeff Sprouse would install a valve on the well that would cut it off for the day when more than 1,624 gallons were pumped.
Supervisors were skeptical that the business would close its doors for the day if that happened—“I just question how practical this whole thing is,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker—and the public raised the matter of who would police compliance.
After more than a dozen citizens hammered the plan with specific objections and showed data correlating each pump transaction with 1.24 gallons of water use—which would mean the station would use at least 2,100 gallons per day—Higgins offered to reduce the number of gas pumps from 16 to 14 until the water usage was proven by actual operation. Higgins said she was willing to negotiate conditions.
Supervisor Ken Boyd suggested that public water lines be extended to the project, but was reminded by Rooker that the board had recently voted down the possibility of connecting public water to parcels outside growth areas.
Supervisor Duane Snow said he was unconvinced by the applicants’ water use projections, objected to the project’s impact on Freetown (soon to be within the Greenwood/Afton Rural Historic District), and was nervous over the prospect of an addition to the station that the applicant refused to offer any information about.
Rooker proposed that conditions be imposed on the permit that addressed neighbors’ concerns.
He suggested a maximum 2,500-square-foot building, at most four pump islands with a total of 8 nozzles and a limit on station operating hours. Rooker said there were sufficient reasons just to reject the permit outright.
Higgins, when asked, countered with a 4,000 sq. ft. footprint and two pumps fewer.
When Rooker stuck to his terms and Supervisor Lindsey Dorrier chimed in calling them “a good solution,” it was clear that a board consensus could form around a conditions list.
The apparent horse trading upset Bob Gilgas of Sugar Hollow, who approached the podium and interrupted the discussion to tell the supervisors that they were cutting out the public after a two-year struggle over the fate of the project. “It’s clear you do not have enough information to know how to vote responsibly,” he said with indignation.
But the supervisors proceeded and instructed the staff to draft clear language that limited the stations footprint to 3,000 sq. ft., with no future additions, four pump islands with eight nozzles for gas, one island with two nozzles for diesel fuel and two additional nozzles, one for kerosene and one for off-road diesel. Other conditions limited daily operation to 16 hours, forbade overnight parking, and required a meter on the well head and a flow restriction device that cut off the well at 1,624 gallons. The supervisors said the project would also have to conform to any requirements imposed by the Architectural Review Board, which has yet to approve the station’s site plan.
Final approval for the special permit came Nov. 3 when the board reviewed the language of the conditions.