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Community Council Shoots Down RaceTrac Proposal

The District 4 council voted unanimously to deny the company's request to rezone almost 4 acres of residential land to commercial.

DeKalb County's District 4 Community Council unanimously shot down a proposal to rezone several acres along Lawrenceville Highway for an 18-pump RaceTrac gas station Tuesday, citing overwhelming community opposition.

The Atlanta-area gas station and market company wants the county to rezone from residential to commercial almost 4 acres – which it doesn't yet own – between Orion and Hollywood drives along the highway. It's also asking the county to approve special land use permits for the gas pumps and the sale of alcohol.

The community council, which meets at Stone Mountain Library, acts in only an advisory capacity, and their votes serve as recommendations to the county planning commission and the board of commissioners, which will have final say on the requests.

"I have seen nothing but a constant, growing, overwhelming opposition to this," said Susan Rossi, a council member, before a packed room of roughly 50 residents from the Sargent Hills neighborhood and Little Creek Farm supporters all dressed in red.

The council voted to deny the zoning and both of the special land use permits. RaceTrac officials said they considered other tracts of land along the highway – farther south, for instance – but settled only on the Orion Drive tract because it sits at a traffic light, and it's directly across the highway from their prime competition, QuikTrip.

Den Webb, an attorney representing RaceTrac, asked the council to consider the current landowner's wishes to sell the land to the gas station company. He also said the council needed to consider the proposal on legal terms.

"The fact that people don't want it should not be determining [the vote]," he said. "The thing we're not getting credit for is we are trying. ... We're focused on what we can do, and we're focused on the law."

RaceTrac has met twice with members of the surrounding community since mid-May. Residents say they are concerned the station would create dangerous traffic along their streets and runoff pollution and noise that might harm horses in neighboring Little Creek Farm, which supports equine activities. Others say they fear a popular station would lure crime and harm nearby residential property values.

RaceTrac said Wednesday they have underground water treatment equipment that will adequately handle any contaminants, and they said any station built at that location would use its outdoor speakers only in an emergency.

The rezoning and special use permit requests go before the planning commission Nov. 1. and the board of commissioners Nov. 13.

Rob McGoldrick October 17, 2012 at 11:54 AM
You have got to love Webb's statement, "The fact that people don't want it should not be determining [the vote]," he said. "The thing we're not getting credit for is we are trying. ... We're focused on what we can do, and we're focused on the law." In other words, they (RaceTrac) don't care about the community or what they think, they care about money. That's real nice.
KR October 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I support the community, and the commissioners should, too! The horse farm is owned by DeKalb County and is part of Parks and Recreation. Would DeKalb commissioners allow a gas station literally within feet of an environment that invites recreational equine use by both adults and children?? This "park" has also had events and (due to very limited parking) caused an overflow of parking along the boundaries of the property. This means adults and children are walking along the residential street to enter the "park." How about the county buying these acres inclusive as part of greenspace. This would be ideal to the definition and the protection of this environment.
Leah Salby October 17, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Oh yes, that is all they care about. That statement makes no sense! Oh, and guess what? RaceTrac has a lot of skimmers. **Officers found a skimmer inside a gas station pump at northwest Atlanta's RaceTrac on Marietta Boulevard and Bolton Road. Don't buy RaceTrac gas from any station. I wrote their company. No reply. I wrote the commissioner, no reply. Not once, but a dozen times. What are the taxes being paid for? Lazy government officials that take money from big companies. They have not even repaved Orion Drive which is all cracked, but they will let a RaceTrac in with semi's moving up and down that street? What a joke!
Leah Salby October 17, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I totally agree on that. People won't be able to enter the park due to the congestion from traffic. There will be accidents. The proposed RaceTrac would be directly across from the entrance to the park! With all the noise and pollution I highly doubt we will see the horses in the area opposite a RaceTrac. It's absurd! This is a neighborhood not a business district IMHO. It should be preserved by the county. I pay taxes for this beautiful pristine park. I write to the commissioners. Do they respond? NO.
Becky October 17, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Thank you, Jonathan, for covering the event. The neighborhood really appreciates your being there and reporting on this issue.
Publius October 17, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The attorney had a very weak argument and I'm assuming they're going to beef up their attack in attempting to obtain this property. Regardless of the argument they bring forward, the fact is that this intersection is already dangerous enough, and with another massive gas station next to a horse park and a beautiful residential community, it will continue to be a problem for Decatur residents and especially the residents and horses of the Sargent Hills Community. SAY NOT TO RACE TRAC!
Beryl October 17, 2012 at 03:19 PM
The impact on Lawrenceville Highway drivers would hurt everyone. Traffic on Lawrenceville Highway coming over the crest of the hill down towards RaceTrac would be rear-ended if trying to turn in to the station at that location and T-boned if trying to exit the station to re-enter Lawrenceville Highway. Increased accidents in turn impede traffic flow. Such a commercial use at that location would hurt DeKalb County and endanger each and everyone of us.
Leah Salby October 17, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I could not agree with Beryl's statement more. I ride around the area on my bicycle daily and see cars with near misses as is. It's a mess and would be a danger to all if this RaceTrac goes up. It's just about greed. Boycott it if they win.
Donna Toepfer October 17, 2012 at 05:00 PM
What I don't understand is why they don't consider purchasing one of the MANY empty car dealerships just a block up the road? They're huge and obviously already zoned for commercial. Bonus-- there'd be no trees to remove. I also don't understand why all I ever see in the way of new development is gas stations. Guess they are the only companies with money.
Leah Salby October 17, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Because they want to compete directly across the street from QT which is ridiculous. If you head north on Hwy 29 they are building another on the left side. It's HUGE! We cannot let this happen!
SHoward October 17, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Good people, please write to your commissioners Kathy Gannon and Sharon Barnes-Suttles (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/boc/contact.html). These are very good comments - make sure they are heard (read) by the right people!
Leah Salby October 17, 2012 at 06:07 PM
SHoward, I have been writing to Sharon Barnes-Suttles for days. I have emailed her dozens of times. She has my phone number as well as my email. She has not responded after numerous emails. I asked her what my taxes are doing? Nothing, because she won't even take the time to call or email me. Good luck if anyone gets a response. They are useless gov't employees.
Roberta October 17, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Can you publish who to contact to say no to? I'd love to e-mail Race Trac in support of NOT building on that site. Thanks!
Ms. October 17, 2012 at 09:59 PM
This is part of one of my loops, and I FREQUENTLY see many walkers, 2 families that pull their kids in wagons, it's just a slow neighborhood and that's what makes it nice. People actually are able to stand in the street and talk which I also see, and is important to note, because the neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks. I also suspect they walk the horses down the road occasionally. Having this become a new "race" way to the RaceTrac would fundamentally change the nature of the neighborhood. If this is not for the greater good of the neighborhood, and the surrounding neighborhoods aren't currently under served in the convenience/gas capacity, then why is this even up for discussion?????? Can any commissioners answer that?
Ms. October 17, 2012 at 10:06 PM
You can bet if you were the CEO of RaceTrac, or a lobbyist for RaceTrac or a convenience store PAC with a campaign contribution, it would be a different story.
Becky October 17, 2012 at 10:15 PM
One of the reasons they gave at the meeting last night was that they must build at an intersection with a traffic light, I suppose to facilitate people accessing it from either direction of traffic. The empty car dealerships don't have traffic lights by them. But, yes, they also seem to want to be right across the street from QT which seems bizarre to me. Sounds like a playground rivalry!
Leah Salby October 18, 2012 at 12:35 AM
We need to get WSB to air this story. They were there filming some of the area of the conservancy yesterday, 10/16/12. I initiated email to WSB. They did show up, but I see no coverage yet. Contact them, call them. Call all the different channels and tell them you want media coverage on this ridiculous DeKalb County government not responding to any emails or phone calls regarding this travesty. DO IT! WSB did it for Cobb county and it was the same issue. DO IT!
Leah Salby October 22, 2012 at 01:59 PM
SHoward, they do not respond. I suggest we all go to their offices and get in their face. What else?
Laura Martin October 23, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Heard enough for me never to buy gasoline from Racetrac. Poor business model to simply copy QuikTrip's succcess.
Leah Salby November 05, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Owner did not sell to RaceTrac, but will try something else eventually. Make it green space. See new petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/dekalb-county-commissioners-rezoning-make-the-land-between-orion-and-hollywood-drives-green-space

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