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Planning Commission rejects proposal for service station on 51st Street

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Siding with neighborhood opinion, the Planning Commission voted against a staff recommendation on Tuesday night, and came out strongly against a proposed service station on East 51st Street.


The applicant was seeking changes to a conditional overlay to allow construction of a service station on the undeveloped tract at 4500 East 51st Street. This use is explicitly prohibited at the intersection of 51st and Springdale Road, and the members of both the Pecan Springs- Springdale Neighborhood Association and the East MLK Combined Neighborhood Contact Team opposed the change.


DeWayne Lofton, president of the Pecan Springs Neighborhood Association and one-time City Council candidate, spoke against the change to the conditional overlay, which he explained was quite intentional.


“We just don’t believe that this particular development brings any needed services or value,” said Lofton. “About 10 years ago we put together our neighborhood plan. And service stations were one of the things that we specifically stated that we didn’t want on this particular property. Our values haven’t changed since then.”


Lofton went on to say that the neighborhood would encourage development on the tract and  would happily support businesses that were lacking in the area, such as dry cleaners or sandwich shops.


“The thing that we find most frustrating is that we have all these developers come in there, and they want to tell us what they think we should have. We have a clear vision of what we want, and if they want to come in and invest in our neighborhood, then come in and make some investments that we’ve said that we want, and we will support it. We are not anti-development,” said Lofton.


Carl McClendon of McClendon & Associates argued that developing a service station on the tract was an appropriate use, and that the intersection was consistent with other intersections in the neighborhood plan that allowed service stations.


“I’d love to be able to put a 20,000 square foot building with a lot of retail and speculative uses to address some of those requests the neighborhood is making. But there is a great deal of GR- and CS- zoned property up and down Springdale Road, and even East 51st Street, which has not been developed, which is properly zoned, and where some of these other uses can take place,” said McClendon.


When questioned by the commission about whether the neighborhood would rather the tract remain bare, Lofton was resolute.


“If it’s something that we clearly don’t want, yes, we would rather see it remain undeveloped and available for something that we do want,” said Lofton. “One day we’re going to look up, and there’s not going to be a piece of property available to build something that we do want. So, at what point do we say enough is enough and put up the good fight?”


The commission agreed with the neighborhood’s perspective that six or so service stations within easy drive was probably sufficient.


“I know this neighborhood pretty well, and I think it is absolutely the case that there are so many uses that are not available in the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Saundra Kirk.


“There just are so many things that would be wonderful to have, that would be welcomed. I really hate to see you and your client spending so much time trying to, kind of, push something on them that they really don’t need,” said Kirk. “There are service stations; you cannot run out of gas in that area. But you can’t get a sandwich, you can’t get your clothes cleaned. There are so many things you cannot do. So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable on the part of the neighborhood to request that you rethink what you bring to their neighborhood.”


The commission voted 7-0 against the change, with Commissioners Danette Chimenti and Donna Tiemann absent.


“If there is nothing that is screaming it should happen from a planning perspective, then I am going to defer to what the neighborhood has explicitly laid out and explained as far as what they require,” said Commissioner Dave Anderson.

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