Commissioners held a public hearing regarding the rezoning of a piece of land on East Alsobrook Street. The initial community feedback led to a near hour-long conversation about the property.feedback led to a near hour-long conversation about the property.
A rezoning request led to quite a stir during last week’s city commission meeting when the community expressed concerns over a proposed gas station on East Alsobrook Street.
The applicant came before the commissioners asking to rezone 11.87 acres at 1909 E. Alsobrook St. from an R-1 A Single-family Dwelling District to a C-1 General Commercial District.
Commissioners learned the developer plans to build a convenience store with gas pumps and a climate controlled self-storage facility on the property.
The Planning Board unanimously found the rezoning to be consistent with the Plant City Code on Aug. 26, so it was forwarded to city commissioners for approval.
Commissioners listened to a presentation on the request for rezoning when the public comments began to roll in.
The site in question is at the corner of East Alsobrook Street and South Park Road. Across the street is the BP Gas & Pop’s Food Mart.
Robyn Baker, Planning & Zoning senior planner, reminded commissioners this preliminary hearing would just be about rezoning. Typically it is not a site-based plan, so the details of what could come down the road are not usually presented. However, the applicant did present its vision: a gas station and storage unit.
The proposed storage unit is a three-story climate controlled facility with a smaller building in front that would serve as a gas station. Between the two buildings would be the types of pumps that would service large trucks with normal pumps in the front of the gas station for smaller vehicles.
One citizen wrote commissioners expressing their concern about the site becoming a truck stop. Peter Pensa, the applicant’s representative, negated that by saying there wasn’t room for trucks to park for long periods of time as the space was small toward the back of the lot. He simply said, “This is not a truck stop.” The parking on site is there for truck drivers to run in, use the facilities and buy some coffee before getting back in their trucks and heading on their way.
This is a gas station and Pensa pointed out that much of the surrounding land was zoned for commercial/industrial use or had a future land-use designation as commercial/industrial.
Commissioner Mike Sparkman — who reminded commissioners this was his industry and he was involved in the gas business for years — reviewed the plan and added that he doesn’t see the concern because there are very few pumps on site.
Mayor Rick Lott added that there was a large wetland on the site that will not be touched and will act as a natural buffer to the property.
Bruce Sperry spoke on behalf of his client who owns property on Alsobrook Street — Mid Florida Planning Development — and said the increase in traffic was a concern. Rather than have a zoning change, he recommended the C-1 zoning not be approved and the city make it a planned development district so the commissioners will have the final say on everything that goes within the plat, rather than approving the rezoning and then potentially having the developer change things down the road.
Sperry said all of the concerns raised that evening would be best handled through a planned development district, as the commissioners could then make sure every concern was addressed. Concepts are hard to track and Sperry said they deserved to have a full plan before the rezoning was approved.
One of the most compelling arguments of the evening came from Pat Dexter, the executive director for Plant City Housing Authority, who spoke as a citizen during the public comment.
“I have concerns,” Dexter said. “And Mr. Sperry has just done such a great job because I do not believe it should be a C-1. I mean, I know all of the acronyms because I’m in the housing profession, but I do know that from my own home I already see the traffic backed up there on East Alsobrook every day because of the buses to and from school. That’s a busy road and a busy intersection, and it’s getting heavy traffic for some reason. The people are having quite a difficult time getting even out of driveways… I not only work in this area, I live here. I drive here. For some reason there’s an accident monthly at that intersection. I’ve been in an accident there myself. We don’t know what the problem is, but there’s a problem and there is an accident there monthly.”
Another speaker agreed with Sperry’s suggestion, saying that if there is to be something of this size, it needs to happen under a planned development district.
The applicant responded by explaining why they were asking for a C-1 rather than a C-1A, which was to allow for the storage facility on the property.
Baker reminded those listening that this was the first of many steps before they could finalize this project.
When it came to concerns regarding traffic, she said traffic studies are a part of the process — though that would be through Hillsborough County as they are county roads — but that none of that is done at this stage.
“The future land use for the property is commercial now and a good part of the reason for that is because Alsobrook now is considered a collector street, Park Road is an arterial,” Baker said. “So our comprehensive plan encourages these types of — not this particular type of use — but neighborhoods serving commercial type uses at these what we call nodes, that’s the intersections of either arterials to arterials, collectors to collectors, collectors to arterials, you know that’s the same. In this particular kind of situation even if this was a residential future land use with a Residential 12 in the neighborhood, they would still be considered for that locational criteria because this is one of our bigger nodes that we want to see these commercial type uses at these intersections. So that’s why that commercial designation is there instead of a residential designation.”
Lott chimed in once more, saying a storage facility really was the lightest traffic use you could potentially put on the property. Gas stations have much higher traffic coming in, but when the studies are done they will have a grasp on how many trucks and other vehicle traffic they can expect on the property. That will come later during a site plan.