One Hundred seventy four residents have signed a petition in opposition to a proposed gas station and convenience store on South Lindbergh Boulevard, according to a resident who spoke during a public hearing for the proposed project.
heard from more than 20 speakers during Tuesday’s meeting, including a handful of business owners adjacent to the property. The vast majority were opposed to the project, primarily because the Petro Mart would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There also were many concerns about safety in the area, which falls just south of Interstate 44.
After four and a half hours of public hearings, the board decided more study is required before they can make an informed decision.
The project requires a zoning change, lot consolidation, conditional use permit, and preliminary development plan--as well as some changes to Lindbergh Boulevard.
mostly had issue with a traffic plan that includes an additional traffic signal at South Lindbergh Boulevard and Monica Drive. A raised median down the center of Lindbergh would restrict motorists from making any left turns into businesses on the west side of the road, except at the new traffic light.
The Petro Mart project is being proposed by Land West #7 L.L.C. for a property that once was the home of a Bob Evans restaurant. Speaker after speaker lauded Petro Mart as a good company, while at the same time objecting to the added traffic and commotion that it would bring to a site that backs up to a residential area.
Representatives with Petro Mart said they believe the business would generate $50,000 to $60,000 in sales tax annually, and that road improvements would decrease traffic issues that current exist on Lindbergh.
In the end, as Tuesday's marathon meeting came to a close near midnight, the aldermen voted to spend as much as $14,900 on a study by PGAV Planners to assess the impact of the project on traffic safety in the affected area. PGAV is expected to make a thorough study and report back to the aldermen in an effort to sort out some of the conflicting opinions on traffic impact, and to provide a third party assessment of the Petro Mart plan.
"We need to make sure that whatever we do that it's the right thing for Sunset Hills," said Ward I Alderman Richard Gau, whose ward includes the property in question.
The "right thing" for most residents, based on comments at Tuesday's meeting, would be to reject the Petro Mart proposal.
Gary Wittler, who lives on Monica Drive, said the street is too narrow, and additional traffic from a new traffic signal would only make the neighborhood problems worse.
"This gas station is a big mistake," Wittler said. "There will be way too much traffic and headaches."
One of the issues for which Petro Mart is seeking flexibility is the number of pump islands that will be allowed on the site. Attorney John King, who was representing the interests of Land West #7 on the project, proposed that a traffic study be used to determine the most efficient number of gas pumps that would still allow for the safety of motorists to get to and from the pumps and the convenience store on the property.
Resident Kathy Tripp, however, was skeptical of the wisdom of allowing a gas station at what she says is already a hazardous stretch of roadway in Sunset Hills, especially the ramp that leads from westbound Watson Road onto northbound Lindbergh Boulevard, a ramp that now would deliver traffic directly into the proposed signalized intersection of Lindbergh and Monica Drive.
"I think this is a bad idea," Tripp said.
Resident Carol Morrison who, along with former alderman Frank Hardy, collected 174 signatures on a petition opposed to the Petro Mart plan, said she believes the opinions of neighbors are being ignored by aldermen.
"We are left out of a process that affects our neighborhood," Morrison said.
Another neighborhood resident, Mark Stobie, held a similar opinion, but he expressed it more colorfully.
"I don't think a 24/7 gas station is the proper thing. I may be a pessimist, but I smells a rat," Stobie said. "We're on the short end of the stick because we are po', and you can't be po' in Sunset Hills."
Hardy expressed his concern to the aldermen about "spot zoning" the property that would allow a commercial zone right next to the residential zone of the Sunset Manor subdivision. He urged to aldermen to not "open this can of worms."
"This gas station would only be 40 feet away from the closest residential property," Hardy said. "Zoning is there for a reason folks, it's your job to protect it."
Chris Beard, a traffic operations engineer for Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, explained aspects of a traffic study he on the stretch of Lindbergh Boulevard between Watson Road and Interstate 44. He said currently that "safety is a concern" in the area, adding that there are "more accidents than would be expected" along the stretch of roadway.
Beard said the changes proposed as part of the Petro Mart development (the traffic signal and raised median) would make the area "15 percent safer" as well as improve traffic flow, particularly north and south on Lindbergh Boulevard. The stretch of roadway from Interstate 44 to Watson Road has seen a heightened number of accidents compared to other roadways with similar traffic flow.
"We do have a traffic problem (now)," Beard said.
Owners and managers of businesses also spoke in opposition to the Petro Mart proposal, mostly with an eye toward a loss of business should the raised median be installed on Lindbergh, prohibiting left turns into their businesses.
Particularly affected is the Circle K, located directly across the street from the property.
Bill Remis, representing Circle K as the building’s property owner, said he objected to the plan based on the traffic signal that would back up traffic in front of Circle K and bring about additional accidents. He also said the elimination of an entrance to Circle K from Lindbergh Boulevard, also would create congestion ans confusion for customers who would be patronizing the Circle K car wash, gas pumps and convenience store.
"The effect of this project will not be positive for us," Remis said.
At the end of the citizen comment and public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting, the aldermen gave a first reading of zoning changes proposal and other issues concerning the Petro Mart development, scheduling a second reading for next month's Board of Aldermen meeting.
Aldermen also discussed the proposal during an Aug. 28 work session, according to Call newspapers.