Beaufort planners recommend commissioners deny permit for gas station on Lennoxville Road

Signs advertising a community-generated website in opposition to a proposed Jim Dandy gas station and convenience store sit across the street from the lot in question at 1550 Lennoxville Road in Beaufort. In a split vote Monday, the Beaufort Planning Board recommend town commissioners deny a special-use permit for the project. (Jackie Starkey photo)

BEAUFORT — The fate of a proposed gas station along Lennoxille Road will be decided by Beaufort commissioners next month, though the town’s planning board recommended officials deny a special-use permit for the business.

With the possibility of underground fuel storage tanks roughly 20 feet from their property, just out the kitchen door, Laurie and Bob Cunningham oppose a plan that would allow a gas station on an adjoining property.  

“Convenience stores sell tobacco, alcohol, lottery and gas. They operate from early morning until late at night, seven days a week. They require commercial delivery trucks that increase traffic concerns. Toxins from gas storage and vent pipes pollute. None of this is quaint or community-friendly,” Ms. Cunningham alleged during an appeal Monday to the Beaufort Planning Board.

Her comments kicked off a stream of organized opposition during the panel’s regular meeting, with a total of 15 individuals speaking against a special-use permit application for a Jim Dandy gas station at 1550 Lennoxville Road.

The advisory board, which typically meets to little fanfare, hosted 100 participants during its virtual meeting on Zoom and, in a split vote, recommended commissioners deny the permit. Among the opposition were speakers who identified as a toxicologist, an addiction specialist and more, all who said they lived in the vicinity of the proposed gas station and would like to see the permit application denied.  

The 0.478-acre parcel was previously home to a gas station and is currently zoned light industrial district. The future land-use plan shows the property being used for medium-density residential development.

Tuesday, planning staff confirmed the town had been inundated with public feedback on the proposal, including some support for the Jim Dandy.

Davis Fuels President Jim Davis also addressed the planning board Monday, expressing a commitment to fitting the business into the neighborhood as a needed service, particularly in the event of a hurricane.  

“It is personally important to me,” Mr. Davis told the board. “…My primary concern is not financial – certainly I wouldn’t be able to do it if there wasn’t a financial benefit – but it is a commitment to community that I believe I exhibit in other markets. And I would love to be able to prove to Beaufort and its citizenship and residents throughout, especially the neighboring properties, how committed we can be.”

The planners were split on the matter, however. After hearing from the public, Mr. Davis and his representatives and reviewing the criteria for issuing a special-use permit, member Ralph Merrill motioned to recommend the town board of commissioners approve the permit, contingent upon a traffic study being done and the company providing additional information on safety and public health impacts.  

Though Mr. Merrill said he didn’t “identify any showstoppers” when reviewing the permit criteria, the motion failed for lack of a second.

Two other planning board members, Diane Meelheim and Chairperson Ryan Neve, instead lent their votes to an alternative motion from member John LoPiccolo to recommend denial, “based upon this not confirming with the town’s land-use plan.” Mr. LoPiccolo also recommended commissioners require a traffic study and environmental impact assessment.

Planning board member Jeff Vreugdenhil was recused from participation in the matter as he is Mr. Davis’ father-in-law. Member Aaron Willis was not present.

The opposition to the proposal came during the general public comment for the planning board, with neighbors raising concerns over traffic, pedestrian safety, pollution, a reduction in property values, a lack of harmony with the surrounding community and more. During board deliberation, the Zoom meeting’s chat function was disabled by staff.

Several speakers acknowledged the need for a new fueling outlet – Beaufort has one gas station – but asked the company to consider alternate locations.

Mr. Davis, however, said he had undertaken an extensive site search of locations around town, eventually honing in on the Lennoxville Road site that is the current home of Austin Veterinary Animal Hospital.  

Tuesday, in a statement to the News-Times, Mr. Davis thanked participants for their involvement in Monday’s deliberations.

“As we discuss both the comments and suggestions offered to date, we remain confident that there is an opportunity to work together to improve this property while also providing a much needed solution for the neighboring community and the Town of Beaufort as a result,” he said, in part. “We will continue engaging with community members who have so graciously allowed us the privilege to do so and, with their help, work to incorporate mutually beneficial improvements into the proposed design as we prepare for the next step in the permitting process.”

The planning board’s 3-1 recommendation to deny the permit and require a traffic survey and an environmental impact statement now goes before town commissioners at their Monday work session. The board is unlikely to discuss the specifics of the proposal, but is expected to instead set an evidentiary hearing for Monday, Aug. 9.

Earlier this month, town attorney Arey Grady advised the commission not to engage in dialogue with the public over the proposal, citing the board’s legal obligations in accordance with conducting the required evidentiary hearing.

If commissioners issue a special-use permit – which can include board-mandated stipulations – other state and federal permitting would be required for the gas station project to proceed, town planning and inspections director Kyle Garner confirmed.

 

Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

(12) comments

Mr. Tom Slick

For Gods sake put the gas station on the Lennoxville Road. These bunch of liberal folk who are from off decide to move into Beaufort and now they want to make it unbearable for others who have lived here all there life. I do remember when it was a gas station long ago. So guess what, the station was there long before these neighborhoods. Besides, you will be able to fill your Mercedes.

quicksand

Why in the world would you call those who oppose a gas station “liberals”?.... What in the world has happened to us?

(Edited by staff.)

mpjeep

Agree, Mr. Slick. Put the gas station in.

Linda Styron Cornwall

Isn't that what was there in the Past?

rooster

This whole thing is beyond ridiculous

CaptainParker

Well, the Planning Board meeting has come and gone after the Board decided on a 3x1 vote to deny Jim Dandy the special use permit to put a gas station at 1550 Lennoxville Road. It seems the proposal was deficient in facts and real world impact. The opposition, mounted by a feisty group of impacted residents, was a comeuppance to an ambitious gas station owner who suddenly wants to be a confectionary selling buttery-glazed buns along with gas, beer, vaping products, and lottery tickets. Certainly, a man for all reasons, but hardly an astute businessman. But does it die here? Well no! Because of a convoluted motion, it will continue on to the Board of Commissioners to decide on a reckless proposal to place a convenience store/gas station offering not only the buttery buns, but also 25,000 gallons of high octane fuel stored within 20 feet of neighbors’ kitchens. Wow! And Mr. Davis seems to believe his operation is less destructive than 25 barking dogs housed at the current vet practice. Such are the side stories of a typical day in Beaufort. Maybe torch a few family homes so visitors can drag their boats more directly to the launch to raise a few beers and play their loud music on Taylor’s Creek.

David Collins

Can not say that the opposition was not prepared ! Brought out all the big guns . Everything they pointed out is true , I think . Up to your elected officials now . So be it .

Marcuspa

That internet meeting was a real eye opener. Certainly with wide spread gas station explosions happening almost daily in the news, cases of exposure to benzine, that effect so many that it's the main topic in the news everyday.

Don't forget the doorbell ding and dash kids are on the cusp of being taken over by testosterone and will certainly be entering the age of forming gangs and robbing gas stations constantly. I have an amusing story about the din and dashers but it does not dovetail with this discussion.

When it all comes down to where the rubber meeting the road, I want the commissioners to just keep in mindtwo words. Cheese Biscuits.

the secret life of man

Watch for the linguistic acrobatics,while your watching that phenomenon there will be the linguistic quicksand that the dissenters will sink up to their necks.Follow the money all the way to the bottom.

David Collins

Gas station explosions and wide spread at that . Heard about natural gas leaks causing homes to explode in the north east and a refinery fire or two but gas stations as well ? Could you be specific as to where and when as well as the news source please ? Need to avoid those locations .

What will be will be . You know from experience that they always make wise decisions . A year or so from now no one will even notice .

beachmami13

Seems like the planning committee didn't care when they decided to build so many more houses and structure near Taylor's Creek & down Lennoxville in the first place, which also impacted the same issues:

"traffic, pedestrian safety, pollution... a lack of harmony with the surrounding community and more."

Seems the planning board has selective hearing when it comes to what is "best" for Beaufort.

ReallyConcerned

Welcome to BeaufortStan. It's one of the Coolest Small towns in America, but better bring gas with you because there's only 1 gas station and it stays out more often than not.

Welcome to the discussion.

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