By Brian Wheeler
Dexter Auction
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Neighbors fighting to shrink the size of a gas station and convenience store proposed for U.S. 250 in Crozet were unsuccessful in an appeal heard Tuesday by Albemarle County’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Free Town Lane resident Richard Brown appealed a February determination by the county’s deputy zoning administrator, Ron Higgins, that the Re-Store’N Station’s preliminary site plan was in “general accord” with a previous plan reviewed by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.

“We are not against putting a building up there, we just want something we can agree with,” Brown said.

Developer Jo Higgins says renderings by Dexter Auction (like above) show the Re-Store’N Station with a smaller footprint than the one neighbors reacted to in December. This revised plan will be reviewed by Albemarle County over the next 2 weeks

The two-story gas station and convenience store is proposed to be built on property 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School. The 4-acre parcel owned by Michelle and Jeff Sprouse was previously the location of a small-engine repair shop and is zoned for highway commercial use.

Brown’s appeal to the BZA argued that the updated site plan showed an office floor three times what had been originally proposed, one that might use more water resources than what was authorized. The Albemarle supervisors placed a cap on total daily water usage of 1,625 gallons.

“My determination was that it was in general accord,” Higgins said. “It’s a broad character comparison. Is it a [gas] station in about the same place with the relationship of all the main uses, gas pumps, paving, and building, the same?

Brown’s neighbor, Bruce Kirtley, told the BZA that the community had thought a “reasonable compromise” had been reached when a smaller gas station was authorized last November. However, Kirtley said the site plan submitted the next month came as a surprise.

“The citizens of Crozet expected a 3,000 square-foot, ground-level retail operation with a 1,000 square-foot family office space,” Kirtley said. “Instead, what was submitted appears to have a total of 5,750 total square feet.”

Higgins told the BZA that he had also determined that the footprint of the Re-Store’N Station in the December plan had in fact exceeded a 3,000 square-foot limit as conditioned in the county’s approval. He said that decision was not being appealed by the neighbors, was not before the BZA, and was being addressed by the developer with a new site plan submission.

Andrew H. Herrick, Albemarle’s senior assistant county attorney, instructed the BZA that the only matter before them related to whether the new site plan was in “general accord” with the previous version. Herrick said other issues raised by the neighbors — which included light pollution, public safety, and water usage — had already been decided.

David Bass, the BZA chairman, said he thought staff had reached the correct decision, particularly as the Board of Supervisors had focused its concerns on the footprint of the building and not the size of the second-story office.

“Absent a specific discussion of the second story, and with a control on the water usage, I am personally pretty persuaded that Mr. Higgins has reached the right decision here,” Bass said.

After the unanimous vote by the BZA to uphold the county staff’s determination, Kirtley said he was not surprised by the outcome.

“It all hinged on a legal interpretation,” Kirtley said. “I think a more reasonable decision would have been to send it back to the board for further review, but law and logic are often two different things.”

Jo Higgins , a former member of the Albemarle Planning Commission, has been representing the project for the more than two years while it’s been under review.

“I think it was a correct decision because all site plans do change between the preliminary and final plans,” Higgins said.

Now that this legal challenge has been addressed, the Re-Store’N Station’s updated site plan will be reviewed by the Planning Commission on Tuesday and the Architectural Review Board on May 16.

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