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As gas stations continue to pop up in the Panhandle, and with mounting concerns from residents about a perceived lack of regulations, two newly proposed ordinances aim to fix the problem.
At its Sept. 9 meeting, Lancaster County Council approved first reading of two text amendments to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance involving businesses that sell gasoline.
If approved after three readings, the amendments would allow convenience stores with or without fuel, as well as less common gasoline service stations, only as a conditional use in the B-3 general commercial district for parcels fronting Charlotte Road (U.S. 521) from the North Carolina state line to the intersection of U.S. 521 and Waxhaw Highway (S.C. 75), as well as parcels fronting Fort Mill Highway (S.C. 160).
County Planning Director Penelope G. Karagounis said the amendments were developed after increased concerns from Indian Land residents troubled by the recent boom in gas station construction.
“An increase of convenience stores with fuel in the Panhandle has brought the attention of the planning staff,” Karagounis said. “We can establish strict conditions, but it’s hard to enforce with only three code enforcers.”
Instead, she said the planning staff is suggesting the addition of eight conditions to the permissible uses for convenience stores with or without fuel and gasoline service stations. The conditions require that such businesses be located at the intersection of a highway and a smaller road, the parcel have a minimum street frontage of 200 feet, the parcel must not be located within 2,640 feet of a similar business, and if near a residential neighborhood, can only operate between 5 a.m. and midnight.
“Instead of eliminating gas stations, which you can’t do, the thought is that if you have these conditions or regulations it will help curtail too many gas stations from popping up in Indian Land,” Karagounis said. “We worked with the planning commission on this to listen to people’s complaints and put a plan into action.”
Though the planning department is working on a comprehensive corridor overlay district which could also address the concerns, Karagounis said that process could take up to a year to complete.
“The planning commission wanted something now to place conditions on gas stations,” she said. “This is going to make it a little stricter to locate a gas store in Indian Land.”
She reiterated that the change would only apply to parcels fronting those specific roads.
“These businesses will still be a permitted use in B-3 elsewhere in the county,” she said.
Councilman Steve Harper disagreed with some of the wording in the amendments.
“The only objection I have is making it about a mile from another gas station,” Harper said. “I think the market will determine that.”
Karagounis also answered questions from council members about the need to amend the conditions of gas service stations.
“We all know the days of these (businesses) are gone, because you pump your own gas,” she said. “But there is a gray area and someone could challenge it.”
Council then voted 4-3 to approve the convenience store amendment, with Harper, Jack Estridge and Bob Bundy dissenting, and voted 5-2 to approve the service station amendment, with only Harper and Bundy dissenting.
Before the votes, Lancaster resident Winston Smith spoke out against the text amendments.
“The issue isn’t gas stations, it’s that some people would rather not have a gas station or any more gas stations,” Smith said.
Smith asked council to be careful they don’t “pile on” too many conditions.
“This is mostly piling on regulations on top of a legitimate business. As long as gasoline is 25 to 30 cents cheaper than in Mecklenburg or Union counties, people will come here to get their gas,” Smith said. “And while stations are here, they’ll hire more people. The biggest problem with gas stations, and it’s not in here (the ordinance), is making sure access is not just on (U.S.) 521, that they have access to side roads too. That helps traffic flow. It’s a serious safety issues, but it’s not addressed here.”
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416