The Albemarle County Planning Commission said no in a unanimous vote June 7 to a proposal by Restore’N Station owner Jeff Sprouse to remove the conditions imposed in the contentious 2010 decision to award the convenience store on Rt. 250 near the Interstate 64 interchange a special use permit for water use, and thus to allow it to exist.
Sprouse, through his development advocate Jo Higgins, had argued that because the gas station and store is not using all its allowable daily water allotment of 1,625 gallons it should be allowed to build a 6,000-square-foot expansion that would create a space for a tire and car repair business, a drive-through doughnut shop, and various offices. According to the original terms of the permit, a special valve on the store’s well limits the amount of water that can be drawn. Self-reporting of water use by Sprouse asserted that the gas station uses about 25 percent of what is available.
Sprouse also asked for the limits on hours of operation and the prohibition against overnight parking to be removed, and for permission to add two diesel pumps. The original permit also imposed a limit of 3,000 square feet to the site’s building. Sprouse offered an engineer’s report that said that the rate of well recharge was above the rate of withdrawal and therefore not a threat to neighboring wells of residents in Freetown, a historically black community that was born at the end of the Civil War.
White Hall District Commissioner Jennie More said it was hard to look at the issue as a water use adjustment, as Sprouse and Higgins said, and not a move to introduce new uses.
Crozet Community Advisory Committee member John Savage presented the CCAC’s resolution against the changes as contrary to the Crozet Master Plan, which tries to limit commercial growth along the highway. Neighbors from Freetown also explained their opposition, fearing for their wells and asserting that the station had not lived by the terms imposed in its permit to shut down the pumps overnight and to prevent trucks from parking there.
More noted that Brownsville Market nearby uses 1,000 gallons of water every day and that better “comparables”—data from like stores in other locations—for the station’s water use be found. Sprouse reported using about one-quarter of that. More suggested that a low customer base could account for the lower use.
Sprouse had a grandfathered right to connect to public water because of a 200-year-old cabin on the property, but forfeited it when he demolished the cabin without getting a demolition permit.
Commissioners worried that allowing the expansion would raise water demand above the well’s allowed use and thus leave the new businesses short of water and asking for the right to connect to public water supplies.
Removing the conditions could maneuver the county into a position where it would be reluctant to harm the new businesses who later found themselves without enough water. If, in distress, the property were later allowed access to public water, the whole process behind the 2010 special use permit, an expression of rural water use policy, would be subverted.
“I think you will find more intense use than there is today,” offered commissioner Bruce Dotson. “I think there are good reasons to think water use would exceed 1625 [gallons].”
Commissioner Mac Lafferty said, “The conditions were put in place by the supervisors to limit water use. They should still be valid and we should keep them.”
Commissioner Pam Riley said, “It’s not easy to predict water use until we know what the [business] uses are.”
The vote to deny went 6-0.