A new RaceTrac gas station and market along Lawrenceville Highway near would only create traffic and pollution and harm the property values of nearby homes, community residents said Wednesday night.
Rougly 100 people who live around in the community filled its cafeteria to confront two representatives with the Atlanta corporation about its plans to build a 24-hour, 18-pump gas station and market on the highway between Orion and Hollywood drives.
"No offense," said Elizabeth Roberts, 49, a community member. "[You're] not welcome. I was hoping RaceTrac as an Atlanta company would understand community cohesion."
Over the course of the one-hour meeting, residents said they were concerned the station would create dangerous traffic along their streets and runoff pollution that might harm horses in neighboring Little Creek Farm, which supports equine activities. Others said they feared a popular station would lure crime while many others said they believed the presence of a gas station so close to their homes would harm property values.
"What you are going to do is drop those values even more," one resident said. "There's not one person here who won't be affected."
RaceTrac's representatives spent most of the hour trying to defend a construction project no one in the cafeteria said they wanted. The company – a QuikTrip competitor – hopes to apply to the county to rezone several acres on the highway from residential to commercial.
Chad Baker, a RaceTrac senior project manager, and Den Webb, an attorney with Smith, Gambrill & Russell LLP, said they didn't have answers for many residents' questions but were there to get a sense of the community's concerns. The county requires anyone seeking rezoning to notify nearby property owners and hold a community meeting. Both said the company is still exploring the viability of the project and has yet to apply for anything or perform necessary environmental testing and so forth.
Trying to appease residents, Baker and Webb said repeatedly that what's bad for the community is bad RaceTrac. For instance, crime that hurts the community also hurts their business, they said. They also said measures could be taken to mitigate things that could harm property values, including leaving vegetation on site, among other options.
"As property owners, we have the same interests you do," Baker said.
The crowd responded with snorts.
"You are really funny," a woman said.
The audience applauded a suggestion that RaceTrac move its planned station farther south on Lawrenceville Highway to the blighted area near DeKalb Industrial Way where many vacant car dealerships are located. Development there would be welcomed by the community, one woman said.
But RaceTrac hopes to position its station between Orion and Hollywood drives because it's in a commercial corridor, and they'll be within viewing distance of their top competition – the popular station across the highway, Baker said.
"The reason RaceTrac wants this site is that the traffic's already there," Webb said.
Some residents took issue with the . The notice said RaceTrac wants to rezone from RM-HD (or Multifamily Resident District) to Office-Institutional, which allows for lower intensity offices, institutions and health service activities where buildings are limited to two stories.
But Baker and Webb said that was a mistake and that they are seeking a commercial zoning. The two also agreed to have another meeting with the community before moving forward with anything.
"These are good questions," Baker said. "I don't know what we are going to do yet."
Dean Hix, 76, who said he moved to the community in 1962, said RaceTrac needs to understand that there probably isn't anything they can do to get the community on board. didn't exist when he moved here, he said.
"Everything that has changed in those 50 years has degraded why I moved out here," Hix said. "As a homeowner, you would fight [this station] too. You're here for your company. We're here for our homes."