Twenty-four hours a day, motorists getting off the new Interstate 65 exit will have a direct entrance into a Greenwood neighborhood from a gas station, raising concerns about crime and safety.
Resident Angela Stelljes and more than 30 concerned neighbors who live in the Central Park neighborhood, near Worthsville Sheek roads, are opposed to a new gas station planned near their homes.
Plans for the 24-hour, 20-pump gas station call for a drive to connect it to an entrance in the Central Park neighborhood. Residents who came to the Greenwood City Council meeting this week said they worry that would lead to more traffic, creating safety concerns for children in the neighborhood, and increase the risk of burglaries.
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Residents understand new development will come to the area when a new I-65 interchange on Worthsville Road opens, but they want to see commercial and retail, not a gas station connected to their neighborhood.
Plans for the new gas station were approved by the city plan commission and now will go to the Greenwood Board of Works and Public Safety, where developers pay bonds to guarantee certain work. But residents who attended Monday’s council meeting are trying to find a way to stop that construction from happening.
“I understand their complaints. I wish there were a better answer than that,” council member Bruce Armstrong said. “We gotta work with Circle K and let them understand how upset the people are. I think the idea of a boycott of that gas station, the threat of that would be pretty substantial.”
Circle K declined to comment.
Greenwood council members have called the area surrounding the soon-to-be-built interchange at Worthsville Road a “blank sheet of paper” for development. Plans for more neighborhoods with high-end homes, office buildings and small commercial buildings are a part of plans for the future entrance to the city. But development plans also call for one gas station, and this would be it.
On Monday night, multiple council members, along with Armstrong, shared the sentiment of the Central Park residents. At least one city council member called plans for a gas station connected to a subdivision “horrible planning.”
“I apologize; this should have never happened,” council member Brent Corey said to the residents. They stood and began to clap and cheer in support.
“I’m as mad as you are. This is horrible. For our planning department and our plan commission to allow this to go through, they just sat there, and that’s inexcusable. Shame on us as a city for letting this happen, and most definitely shame on our planning department for letting this happen,” Corey said.
Corey and Duane O’Neal, a member of the plan commission that approved the area’s lone gas station, also argued about whether the gas station should have been allowed.
One of the key concerns neighbors raised was an entrance from the gas station into their neighborhood, which Circle K presented in its designs when plans were being reviewed.
Because they own the property where Central Park Boulevard South ends, Circle K has the right to connect to a public street because the city doesn’t have an ordinance restricting that.
Both city engineer Mark Richards and planning director Bill Peeples said they had suggested and recommended that Circle K not connect to the subdivision on multiple occasions, but that the business wants to connect the neighborhood to the gas station, Richards said.
Circle K paid $675,000 for the property and its primary plats, or initial plans, are filed, Armstrong said. That gives the company the right to build the gas station within three years.
Even if the city went in and changed zoning to not allow a gas station, Circle K would have the right to do what the business originally filed that plat for, corporation counsel Krista Taggart said.
“The council’s hands are tied at this point,” Taggart said.
The neighborhood is in Armstrong’s district, and he met residents with an apology outside Monday’s council meeting, empathizing with Selljes’ presentation and the concerns from residents.
Some of the concerns residents have is that the roundabout traffic at Sheek and Worthsville roads will create issues and cause accidents for motorists exiting and entering the gas station, Selljes said.
The smell and pollution the gas station will produce, sitting right against the neighborhood, are also issues residents brought to council.
Stelljes and the other residents at the meeting are not opposed to the new I-65 interchange, but the gas station being built, connected to their neighborhood, is an extreme oversight of planning, Stelljes said.
Late at night, early in the morning, and in the middle of the day while children play or walk home from school, someone who isn’t from the area can get off the exit and enter the neighborhood from Circle K. It’s textbook snatch-and-grab because someone can take a kid right out of the neighborhood, get back on the interstate and be gone, resident Dav Wilson said.
“We have very nice homes, we have beautiful things inside our homes. People prey on that,” resident Chad Anhalt said. “Look at the traffic coming through that neighborhood. A park is right there. The first right-hand turn is a park, and then it’s a quick exit back to the interstate. ”
When the area along Worthsville Road was zoned in 1998, a gas station was included in the plans. When the I-65 overlay district was created, it did not extend down to Worthsville Road.
The overlay district doesn’t allow for gas stations. When the area near the new interchange was annexed, the plan commission should have extended the overlay south to include Worthsville Road. If that had been done, the gas station would have not been allowed, council member David Hopper said.
Corey directly addressed O’Neal, a plan commission member who was present at Monday’s council meeting, and reiterated Hopper’s comments.
O’Neal asked Corey if he was suggesting the plan commission wouldn’t do what’s best for the community.
Both deferred to the planning department as the governing body that could have implemented such changes in zoning when the land was annexed and zoned in 1998, just before plans were drawn.
“It’s a repeated wake-up call to the city officials to really understand their zoning and pay attention to the human impact. That’s what was completely lost in all of this,” Stelljes said.
“This was an extreme oversight. The gas station could have been so many different things.”
For now, residents were encouraged to attend the next plan commission meeting Monday.
Taggart, Hopper, Corey and Stelljes are discussing whether the neighborhood has the right to block off the entrance to the neighborhood with barriers, or a guard rail, which is the most that can be done about the gas station. And residents can’t do that without going through a process with the city where the road is vacated, allowing residents to close the connection.
“I think the city, as a whole, does a very good job,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.
“Areas where things are zoned commercial, because of the lay of the land, there are small portions that did not get changed (over the years) and this is one of them. When zoning and planning changes, everything can’t always be caught. I understand residents are upset, but that area has been zoned that way since 1998.”
Here is a look at a proposed gas station that has upset neighbors in a Greenwood neighborhood:
The project: A 24-hour, 20-pump gas station at Sheek and Worthsville roads, near a new Interstate 65 interchange being built.
The concern: Residents of the nearby Central Park neighborhood don’t want a gas station next door, and they are concerned about plans that would connect an entrance to the business with their subdivision.
What’s next: The city board of works would need to approve the bonds that guarantee work, but the area is zoned to allow a gas station and city rules would allow the gas station to connect to the neighborhood street. Residents are looking into whether their neighborhood can put up a guardrail to close off the entrance into the subdivision.