PIQUA — The Piqua Planning Commission unanimously rejected a proposed special use for a lot that includes where the former George’s Dairy Bar is located during their meeting on Tuesday evening.
The Dunson Supply Company of Cincinnati, along with the property owners George and Ruth McMillan, applied to have the special use of an auto service station approved for the property, which is located on the 300 block of Spring Street at the intersection of Spring and Ash streets. The property’s existing zoning is for the central business district, and the existing usage is for a restaurant.
Each of the applications stated that the special use would allow for “the highest and best use for the property,” according to their application. The applications also stated, “Current interest from developers indicates the proposed special use would allow for maximum investment.”
George and Ruth McMillan’s son and former operator of the George’s Dairy Bar David McMillan was present during the planning commission meeting to represent the applicants along with realtor Ben Redick of Bruns Realty Group to speak on behalf of the request. McMillan and Redick said that they had interest from a developer for a gas station for that location, but they did not have a formal offer for the site.
In the discussion about this request, city of Piqua Economic Development Director Chris Schmiesing first went over a number of considerations for the planning commission.
“Items that one would typically give consideration when thinking about a fuel station or a convenience store are the impact they could conceivably have on not just the subject location but the surrounding properties in the community as a whole,” Schmiesing said. He suggested that health effects when one is pumping gas, such as “impacts to air quality and/or potential for spillage that could affect ground water or surface water runoff” were considerations as well as lighting.
“Fuel stations are typically, intensely lit by design. This can create light pollution,” which he said could affect adjoining properties, a number of which are residential. He added the noise was also a concern, citing air compressors and traffic noise.
“Blight, not necessarily as it relates to new construction or the initial investment or improvements, but as we look forward at some of these concerns and talk about the need in the community, there’s a potential for over-investing or over-building these types of facilities and exceeding the demand and the need in the community to result in existing facilities to be closed and/or shuttered. Disinvestment starts to happen there,” which Schmiesing said could cause a blight issue.
“Property values are certainly relevant in the conversation,” Schmiesing said. “There are a number of studies that are easily accessible … that indicate fuel stations within a certain distance of residential properties do certainly have an adverse affect on those property values.” He went on to say that if “a residential property is within 300 feet of a fuel center, they are no longer eligible for federal housing administration insured mortgages.”
Schmiesing went on to say that traffic at that intersection as well as the area’s proximity to the Great Miami River were also considerations.
Schmiesing also brought up a map of fuel stations located within the city of Piqua, saying that there are currently 11 fuel stations in Piqua and nine of them are also convenience stores.
“Industry standards would tell you that you need 3,000 to 6,000 people living or working within a half mile to one and a half miles to support this type of use activity. The half mile radius over top of the 11 that exist today would suggest that we have an abundance of fuel centers and convenience stores,” Schmiesing said.
He said that if they extended those perimeters, then “virtually every household in the community” is within 1 mile of one or more fuel stations or convenience stores.
McMillan later spoke, saying that this special use would allow the property owners to continue negotiations with a gas station chain in order to sell the property.
“Previously we’ve had talks with a drug store chain that it turned out it fell through,” McMillan said. “We’re now talking to a gas station chain.”
He said that a service station is an allowed variance under the property’s current zoning.
McMillan went on to say that the new business would create jobs and provide additional income and sales tax for the city.
“This is property that is located on a major state route, so there would be people driving through our city, would stop to get gas and buy things and contribute to our tax base,” McMillan said. “I’m from Piqua. I’ve lived in the area quite awhile, I know the area you’re talking about. There seems to me to be a lot of rentals in that area that are prime for redevelopment.”
Redick later spoke before the planning commission, stating that a gas station for that corner would be in the “highest and best use” for the property due to the traffic at that intersection. He said that the previous interest from corporations to turn that site into a drug store or similar entity was not likely to come back soon. While they did not have an official offer, Redick said that interested developers proposed investing nearly $3 million into the location.
Another member of the public came forward, the owner of four rental units in that area, also expressed a concern about the impact that the proposed gas station would have on noise in the area and resale values for the residences.
Later on during the discussion with the planning commission, Joe Wilson, who was recently appointed to the planning commission this year, asked if denying the special use request would negatively impact the possible sale of the location. Redick indicated that it would.
Members of the planning commission made comments that they did not have enough information to approve the request. Planning commission member Gary Koenig commented about not hearing anything about access to and from the proposed gas station. Cindy Pearson, also a member of the planning commission, stated that the special use of the location, which would be approximately three quarters of an acre, would be “overwhelmed” due to the scale of the proposed gas station as well as other demands of traffic and delivery trucks. Stuart Shear of the planning commission said he had concerns about the potential for traffic problems and accidents.
The planning commission later unanimously rejected the special use request.
In other news:
Also during the planning commission’s meeting, they named Jim Oda as the chairperson and Shear as the vice chairperson. The planning commission also appointed Pearson to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Koenig to the Housing Council.
The planning commission also approved rezoning property referred to as Swift Run Farm, located off of State Route 66, from residential planned unit development to open space. The property is currently open space and used for farming and land conservation. It was previously zoned for a planned unit development for a residential development over a decade ago until the 2008 housing crisis occurred.
The planning commission then affirmed that Jean Street, located off of Sharon Drive in the Peters and Sunset Acres subdivisions, is called Jean Street and not Jean Drive. The clarification was requested by the Miami County 9-1-1 Communication Center.