Supervisors Divided on Re-Store ‘N Station Expansion

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has deferred a decision on whether a Crozet gas station and convenience store may construct additional buildings and extend its business hours.

At the board’s meeting Wednesday, Supervisors Rick Randolph, Liz Palmer and Ann H. Mallek moved to reject the proposal but Norman Dill, Diantha McKeel and Brad Sheffield voted against that motion, resulting in a 3-3 tie.

Re-Store ’N Station, located at the intersection of Rockfish Gap Turnpike and Freetown Road near Western Albemarle High School, opened in 2014. Its four-acre lot borders Freetown, a small neighborhood founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.

Freetown residents have complained about bright lights and noise from trucks at Re-Store ’N Station. Jo Higgins, who represented landowner Jeff Sprouse at the board meeting, said that trying to further develop the property “has been a grueling process” for both the owner and the surrounding community.

In December, Sprouse requested amendments to the gas station’s special-use permit that would allow for the construction of a drive-thru doughnut restaurant, an auto retail business and repair shop and additional office space. The amendments also would eliminate restrictions on hours of business activity, enable vehicles being repaired to park overnight and allow the addition of at least two fuel pumps.

The Albemarle Planning Commission voted 6-0 against those amendments in June, citing uncertainty as to whether the water usage limit enforced by the special-use permit — 1,625 gallons per day— would be enough for the additional buildings. However, the county’s planning staff has recommended the project for approval.

On Wednesday, County Attorney Greg Kamptner said the Board of Supervisors’ review of the proposal should be limited to potential water use. But questions from board members and public comments brought up other problems that the new facilities could present.

Randolph took issue with the proposal’s claim that “… it should be up to the business owner to decide if operating longer hours is beneficial to the business and to the customers.”

“How would you have felt if, moving in directly across your street, there was a service station with 24-hour-a-day truck traffic, lights, noise … [disrupting] your customary neighborhood, your customary privacy, your customary right to enjoy peace in your community,” Randolph asked Higgins.

“I greatly sympathize with that … but people make a decision to live near interstates and that sort of thing,” Higgins replied. “In all fairness, when someone owns properly zoned property, they are citizens too. They should have the right to use that property, and follow the rules set out by the ordinance.”

Brownsville Elementary School’s principal, Jason Crutchfield, was one of several Freetown residents who commented on the proposal.

“If the owner would just work with the community, we probably could come up with a solution,” Crutchfield said. “This is a pursuit of happiness issue, and our pursuits of happiness are colliding.”

Crozet Gazette editor Mike Marshall said he opposed the Re-Store ’N Station proposal because it would divert growth and traffic from downtown Crozet.

“You’ve got to keep thinking of [U.S.] 250 as the bypass around where the density is supposed to happen,” Marshall said. “You can have a doughnut shop in downtown. You can have a tire store in downtown. That’s where it ought to be.”

In her rebuttal, Higgins urged the board to focus on the issue of water use before moving to reject the proposal.

“This is a deal where we’re talking about financial success or financial failure,” Higgins said. “[The owner] is prevented from using the water that’s given to him by right. And this action would perpetuate that.”

Higgins added that the Re-Store ’N Station currently uses just 16 percent of the daily water allotted by the special-use permit.

In the board’s final discussion before the vote, Randolph encouraged his fellow supervisors to examine the Re-Store ’N Station proposal from a form-based perspective.

“Does the scale and nature of this commercial enterprise fit within the parameters of the rural area and the ambiance of the rest of the community? We’ve heard very clearly from people who have deep historical roots in this community that they don’t feel that this is working to their level of satisfaction,” Randolph said.

Dill said he didn’t think the proposal was inherently flawed. “Expanding seems perfectly reasonable … They seem to have figured out a way to not use very much water.”

Dill said he wanted to read the minutes from the Board of Supervisors’ original approval of the station in 2010, to see if the proposed development would break promises that the owner had made to the Crozet community. Even if these promises weren’t legally binding, Dill said, “Crozet is the kind of community where a person’s word is their honor.”

After the split vote, supervisors approved Higgins’ request to defer review of new conditions for the special-use permit to their Oct. 12 meeting.