A deadlocked Albemarle County Board of Supervisors killed a request for a special-use permit for a gas station and market near the Interstate 64 interchange with Black Cat Road.
Tiger Fuel proposed a market of up to 4,000 square foot with as many as five gas pumps at the site. The Market at Boyd Tavern also would have served food and sold snacks and beverages.
Supervisors Donna Price, Ann H. Mallek and Bea LaPisto Kirtley voted against the permit during the board’s meeting this week, while Supervisors Liz Palmer, Diantha McKeel and Ned Gallaway supported the permit. Tie votes cause motions to fail.
In their votes, Price, Mallek and LaPisto Kirtley cited the character of the neighborhood, traffic, inconsistency with the rural area and the county’s rural area interstate interchange policy.
“I think the inconsistency with the rural areas and the intersection policy — both are real showstoppers for me,” Mallek said.
Gallaway said the changes made to the application to address impacts were persuasive for him, and that he was shocked that Tiger Fuel agreed to only be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., instead of the 24 hours initially proposed.
“That was a big caveat,” Gallaway said. “I specifically have asked in the past what that means, from a dollar perspective to the business and it’s significant to give up that. So that was a caveat that I thought really spoke to trying to mitigate any impacts to the local area.”
“We’re obviously really disappointed in the outcome, but we’re not going to be discouraged,” said Gordon Sutton, president of Tiger Fuel. “We’re going to keep on pursuing the project and we will pursue the legal avenue. We think it’s a really terrible indictment of how toxic the environment is for local business, and we’re sorry we couldn’t create those jobs for people right now who so desperately need them.”
The vote originally was scheduled for May 20, but an advertising error delayed it to Wednesday.
The undeveloped property proposed for the gas station is about 12.5 acres, but only about 3.3 acres near the road is zoned C-1 Commercial, and has been since 1980.
In February, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the special-use permit, citing the rural nature of the area and neighbors’ concerns.
County staff said that because the property is in the Comprehensive Plan’s Rural Area but is zoned commercially, they used the regulations of country stores in the zoning ordinance as a guide to evaluate the scale and impact of the proposal.
In 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved a change to zoning regulations for certain types of commercially zoned properties in the rural area. Now, property owners who want to have restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores on those properties need a special-use permit if the property is not served by public water or a central water system.
The ordinance was enacted because county staff had found it difficult to prove how much water a project would consume.
In 2018, the county started discussing changes to the zoning ordinance The board originally was considering changes related to water use for all industrial and commercial zoned properties in the rural part of the county.
At the time, the county’s zoning administrator said that at least two applications had been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals over water consumption issues. It was confirmed that those appeals were for the Restore ‘N Station, a gas station in Crozet, and Tiger Fuel’s application for the proposed Boyd Tavern Market on Black Cat Road.
Tiger Fuel filed a lawsuit against the board, claiming that the zoning regulation change was selective downzoning, Sutton said.
County staff recommended approval of the gas station and market with conditions, including that all light fixtures must be full cutoff; all outdoor lighting be turned off when the station was closed; hours of operation must fall between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.; and a tamper-proof, flow restriction device must be installed to limit water flow to not more than 700 gallons per day.
Tiger Fuel wanted to keep the fuel pumps in operation overnight, but Sutton said in May that the hours could be reduced to staff’s recommendation.
More than 30 people spoke during Wednesday’s virtual public comment period. Those who opposed the project expressed concerns about water usage, traffic and noise.
Frayser White, who owns the property, said that when he bought the property, he paid “a premium price because the property was, and continues to be, zoned commercial.”
According to county online records, White paid $1 million in 2006 for the property, which is currently assessed at $576,800.
“If Tiger Fuel’s application is denied tonight, I will immediately reopen discussions with national and regional chain retailers, including Dollar General, who have by-right uses and will not need a special-use permit, in which case the county and the neighbors will not have any significant opportunity to participate in their plan,” White said.
Greg Duncan, who lives on Mechunck Road near the site, said he thinks the board is tired of hearing that type of argument.
“Here, that works against the applicant, since a Dollar General store is vastly preferable and more appropriate for this area than a gas station,” Duncan said.