Should Caroline County have another truck stop in Carmel Church?
Members of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will be wrestling with that question in coming weeks and months.
Missouri-based Arogas, which operates the Mr. Fuel truck stop in Carmel Church, is seeking permission from county officials to establish a new truck stop on property at the intersection of Rogers-Clark Boulevard (Route 207) and Route 652 – Carmel Church Loop – near McKesson’s distribution center.
The company is seeking to withdraw two proffer amendments that apply to a pair of contiguous parcels comprising 10 acres. The property is located on the south side of Rogers-Clark Blvd. and along Route 652 opposite the entrance to McKesson in the Mattaponi District.
The withdrawal of one proffer would allow Arogas to develop a truck stop on the site. There already are several truck stops on Rogers-Clark Blvd. in the Carmel Church area, which contains a thriving interchange for Interstate 95.
An Arogas official did not immediately return a call from The Caroline Progress to discuss the company’s request.
The land is owned by a Richmond area family corporation, the Shaias. The Board of Supervisors voted a year ago to rezone the property from M1 to B1. As part of having the property rezoned, the Shaias proffered to prohibit certain business uses on the site, including truck stops and service stations with gasoline sales.
At the time, Alan Shaia told county officials there was interest among developers in the site to use if for an extended-stay or full service hotel as well as retail businesses.
Arogas also wants to modify a proffer related to road improvements. An existing proffer requires the Shaias to make road improvements on Route 652 to maintain it to certain standards of the Virginia Department of Transportation; the modified proffer would make the requirement applicable only to the intersection with Rogers-Clark Blvd.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the request at its regular April 17 meeting.
There already is opposition to the request, and including a good measure of criticism from Gary Wilson, the county’s director of economic development and tourism, whose job it is to recruit business to Caroline. In a letter reviewing the application, Wilson said the proposed truck stop is too far from the intersection and too close to the Belmont subdivision, the entrance to which is located on Rogers-Clark Blvd. about 1,500 feet further east of the intersection with Route 652. The proposed truck stop would have a detrimental effect on traffic – truck traffic related to existing truck stops in the vicinity already is risky, he noted – and the county’s ability to draw other, more attractive businesses like McKesson, argued Wilson.
More truck traffic would add “to the volumes that will help trigger future costly road improvements to accommodate truck traffic that would attend investment in manufacturing and distribution firms,” wrote Wilson. “This may discourage investment from companies like McKesson in the future. As this area is predominantly zoned M1, lesser zoned uses that can inhibit industrial investment should be discouraged.”
Wilson recommended that priority be given to existing zoned and planned uses for the area, “residential build out and their traveling safety, and industrial investment.”
Sheriff Tony Lippa also expressed concerns about the traffic a truck stop at the location would generate and recommended the request be denied. “I do not want to experience the problems from the old Route 652 and Route 207 that created the Carmel Church Loop,” he wrote.
In an e-mail to the county’s planning staff, John Schwartz, a broker representing the Shaias, disagreed with Wilson’s comments about the potential impact to people living in the Belmont neighborhood. Trucks leaving the Mr. Fuel would turn on Rogers-Clark Blvd. back to I-95 or left toward U.S. 301, he noted, “and will not be crossing (Rogers-Clark Blvd.) anywhere near the Belmont subdivision.”
In its application, Arogas said the proposed development would include a convenience store and fueling for passenger cars and tractor-trailers, a café-seating area, and expanded restrooms with showers. It would not provide vehicle service, overnight accommodations, or a restaurant.
Arogas would extend the existing westbound left turn lane on Route 652 to provide 200 feet of vehicle storage and improve turning and a right turn lane into the Mr. Fuel, “assuring that vehicle flow is not degraded.” The site would have staging and parking spaces to accommodate at least 105 trucks.
The Mr. Fuel would employ 20 full-time and 10 par-time workers and generate $150,000 in annual tax revenue to the county, according to Arogas.
The company cited a study by a transportation consulting firm that indicated the proposed Mr. Fuel would generate less traffic than an alternative development of three fast-food restaurants and a convenience store without truck fueling.
At least one member of the Planning Commission, chairman Pete Davis, expressed strong reservations about the proposed truck stop during the panel’s regular work session Wednesday evening this week. The commission appears unlikely to vote on the request at its regular meeting following the public hearing; instead, it likely will meet with Wilson at its next work session in May.
Davis told the other commissioners the request gave him “some real heartburn.” After the planning staff briefed the panel on the objections and concerns raised by Wilson and Lippa, Davis suggested the commission defer action on the request until it has an opportunity to meet with Wilson in the May work session and question him further.
“Sounds to me it was pretty damn plain,” said Commissioner Tim Thompson, referring to Wilson’s views on the request.
“That letter was self-explanatory,” added Commissioner Milton Bush.
When the planning staff reminded Davis the request was set for a public hearing for its April 17 meeting, he proposed deferring action at the upcoming meeting until it has an opportunity to confer with Wilson at the May work session.