GAINESVILLE - Tuesday evening the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board recommended denial by a pair of 6-1 votes for a plan to construct a gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Thompson Bridge Road and Christopher Drive.
Plans for the 4500-square foot convenience store and six-pump filling area required use of both the vacant lot at the intersection (formerly home to a Kangaroo gas station and Archie’s Sporting Goods) and the residential lot behind it at 150 Christopher Drive
Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam spoke on behalf of applicant Tom Bower and Clipper Petroleum. Gilliam said the BP Circle M convenience store and fueling station in the shopping center just to the south on Thompson Bridge Road would be closed once the new facility is opened.
“Clipper has agreed to close its other store right across the street if this is approved and once it’s built,” Gilliam said. “So there would be a net gain of zero convenience stores. We feel that’s a big concession on their part.”
“One thing important to note: the billboard sign will come down,” Gilliam said referring to the lone fixture looming over the now-vacant lot.
Clipper Petroleum President and CEO Tom Bower told board members, “Clipper has been in business since 1933 in the Gainesville market…as a reputable company that does things the right way. This is a quality building, brick and stone…we keep a clean store. We don’t have video games…and no billboard. That rascal will be (coming) down.”
However, nearby residents Paul and Marilyn Clarkson see the project as too much of a traffic generator for residential Christopher Drive. They contend that according to the site plan patrons exiting the convenience store parking lot can only go south on Thompson Bridge Road.
They said people wanting to go north on Thompson Bridge Road would have to turn right onto Christopher Drive, go one block to Longview Drive and turn right again to reach Enota Drive and the stoplight at Thompson Bridge Road.
It is this traffic, circling back through their neighborhood and past their residence, which has the Clarksons very concerned. “It’s already really bad because people cut through Christopher Drive to get over to Holly (Lane) and avoid Dixon (Drive). It’s already a big cut-thru,” Marilyn Clarkson said. “It can’t get better; it’s only going to get worse.”
The two agenda items, one for rezoning and one for special use, were called to a vote; both were recommended for denial by a 6-1 margin.
GPAB Chairman Doug Carter told the applicant, “I normally don’t do this…but you are great community members with great projects, but I think there is a concern…of reaching into the residential neighborhood. There has been concern about that through the years with the city.”
“I felt like you all were owed a little further explanation of the way some of us (board members) were thinking on that,” Carter added.
Board member Ryan Thompson agreed. “I think y’all have a very nice product, but I just hate the fact it’s got to make its way into the neighborhood. I wish it could be put on the one lot that’s been a convenience store in the past.”
After the meeting Bower was seen exchanging cell phone numbers with the Clarksons, saying he would like to get together with them to discuss their concerns about traffic increases.
Possibly that will happen soon as the denial recommendation will come before the Gainesville City Council when it meets on December 15th to consider the final disposition of Clipper Petroleum’s application.