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Planners reject proposed truck stop

Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm

MILFORD – An oil company president promised $150,000 in annual county tax revenue and 30 jobs if Caroline County would allow a fourth truck stop in Carmel Church, but the county’s Planning Commission unanimously agreed the busy Interstate 95 interchange area does not need another one.

Missouri-based Arogas Inc., which operates a 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 Carmel Church Loop (Route 652) 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 three truck stops on Rogers-Clark Blvd. in the Carmel Church area, which contains the thriving interchange for I-95.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to forward the request to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation that it be denied. The supervisors will make the final decision.

Pat Manning, president of Arogas, stood before the commission, pleading his case with help from a development engineer, a traffic engineer, and the landowner. Manning said he had been a corporate citizen in Caroline since 1990 and had contributed “millions of dollars in taxes and millions of dollars in pay” to the county. He told commissioners he would continue operating the first Mr. Fuel if allowed to build a second one.

Daniel Caskie, president of the Bay Companies, told commissioners that Arogas isn’t proposing “the old style truck stop or convenience store.” The new one would have “nice architecture,” he said, adding, “When we upgrade, others in the area will be forced to upgrade.” It would be a 6,000-square-foot convenience store and fuel station for cars and trucks. It would have no restaurant but would have a café like a Wawa.

Nancy Albright, who lives on nearby Patterson Lane, opposed the project. “I’m incredulous that we are even discussing another truck stop,” she told commissioners. She travels through the 207/652 intersection regularly. Just this week, she was pumping gas and noticed “three trucks making illegal turns,” said Albright. She was secretary of the Carmel Church Citizen Planning Committee that helped put together the Carmel Church Community Plan, which was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2007.

“These gentlemen don’t live in the area,” said Albright, referring to the applicants and consulting engineers. “They have no interest in this area other than to make money. We should learn our lesson from the other three truck stops.”

An anticipated increase in traffic at the 207/652 intersection from the proposed Mr. Fuel was a crucial part of the discussion as led by county planner Angeline Pitts. She pointed out that the other three truck stops (Love’s, Flying J and Mr. Fuel) generated so much congestion that the 207/652 intersection was moved several years ago.

In addition, county officials sought to control traffic by using proffers to prevent future high-volume generators, such as fast food restaurants, service stations and truck stops. County planners wanted to ensure that Route 652 continued as a through-road for the area between 207 and Route 30.

The state Department of Transportation performed a traffic impact analysis of the proposed new Mr. Fuel and found that it “would not reduce the level of service at the Route 207/652 intersection” below an acceptable level. However, future development in the area might necessitate upgrades to Route 652, the planning staff said.

Manning disagreed. The proposed truck stop would be “just a gnat on a horse” as far as traffic, he said. “We won’t impact the traffic one bit.”

Gary Wilson, the county’s director of economic development and tourism, did not speak at the meeting, but in written comments provided earlier to the Planning Commission, Wilson said the proposed Mr. Fuel is “too close to a residential development (Belmont).”

“The mixing of more truck traffic closer to the residential community of Belmont may pose additional risks to public safety when trucks are not specifically tied to industrial or distribution center service,” he wrote.

The nearby Caroline County Visitor Center and Arby’s restaurant “currently experience truck traffic that ignores signage” prohibiting thru traffic, Wilson wrote. “Signs have been run over repeatedly, curbs are regularly run over, near-collisions between trucks and automobiles are common, and Arby’s has had a light pole run over and destroyed, and their overhanging signage destroyed by trucks.”

Increased refueling truck traffic would “help trigger future costly road improvements,” Wilson noted. “This may discourage investment from companies like McKesson in the future.”

“You probably have good intentions and you’re a good businessman,” Commissioner Milton Bush told Manning. “But Mr. Wilson is strictly opposed to this due to traffic. He is a recruiter of business.”

Caskie told commissioners that the 10 acres proposed for Mr. Fuel would be enough to accommodate three fast-food restaurants and a Wawa. Those four businesses would generate 8,100 trips through the 207/652 intersection in 24 hours, while Mr. Fuel would generate 6,500 trips.

Commissioner William L. Smith said he had “a real problem” with the proposal. The Carmel Church Loop had to be built to accommodate the traffic at the old 207/652 intersection, he noted. “I’m against jamming things in,” said Smith.

“Trucks turn illegally” at the 207-652 intersection, “and they turn in front of people,” said Commissioner Pete Davis, chairman of the panel. “We have to look out for the best interest of the county.”