FAYETTEVILLE — A plan for a new Road Runner gas station can move forward near the intersection of North Street and Garland Avenue.
The City Council on Thursday voted 4-4 to effectively deny an appeal of a grading permit and several variances that were previously issued for the project.
The appeal was led by a community group called Fayetteville Strong, who said a gas station would diminish the scenic character and quality of the surrounding neighborhood and the city as a whole. The group’s request was first denied by the Planning Commission in December, but a second appeal to the full council led to the latest discussion.
The council’s decision on Thursday was not whether a gas station could be built, but whether to reverse the variances that were approved and upheld to allow the project to be built as planned. Those variances included allowances for increased driveway widths, an extension of the maximum internal aisle width, and moving access away from the busiest streets.
Road Runner plans to construct an approximately 3,500-square-foot convenience store on the site with associated parking, six public EV chargers, and a canopy large enough for eight gas pumps, according to city records.
Gas stations are an allowed use for the site under the property’s commercial zoning district. The site, which also includes a lot to the west, was home to a gas station for many years before being redeveloped as a Little Caesar’s.
During public comment, seven people spoke in favor of the appeal and one person spoke against. Most of those supporting the appeal spoke to the undesirable traits of a gas station, while others said it could create dangerous conditions for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
Councilmember Teresa Turk lives near the property, and said she has safety concerns about the added traffic volume a gas station could bring, so she’d be voting in support of the appeal. Sarah Moore agreed and said some of the previous businesses at the site didn’t create a lot of traffic, but a gas station likely would, so she’d also vote to appeal.
Councilmember Bob Stafford said while the property’s zoning allows for gas stations, variances do not come by right. And while Road Runner might’ve already spent time and money on the project, there was never a guarantee that the variances would be accepted.
“Don’t buy the furniture and appliances before you have keys to the house,” said Stafford.
Representatives for Road Runner said the variances are not necessary for the gas station to be built, but were actually requested in an effort to provide a safer traffic situation. For instance, the variances would move the curb cuts away from North Street and Garland Avenue to Lindell and Mount Comfort to keep traffic flowing more smoothly through the busy intersection. If the variances are denied, they said, the gas station would still be built, but it’s possible the design won’t be as safe as it could be.
Councilmember Scott Berna said after studying the city’s accident data, he was surprised to see just how few traffic accidents have occurred at the intersection. He said the data shows only two accidents in 2023.
Police Chief Mike Reynolds confirmed those numbers and said out of over 15,000 traffic accidents in the past four years in Fayetteville, the intersection saw 22 total collisions.
Berna said he believes the variances would mitigate the added traffic by moving the access points away from the busier streets. He said while he’d rather see something more desirable built on the site, the developers already have the right to build a gas station, so he would put aside his personal feelings and vote in favor of what he feels is the safest option.
In the final vote, Turk and Moore supported the appeal along with Bob Stafford and D’Andre Jones. Berna voted against with Sarah Bunch, Holly Hertzberg and Mike Wiederkehr. Mayor Lioneld Jordan declined to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Part of the property in question once included a Mr. Burger restaurant that eventually closed in February 2016. The drive-in style restaurant was the last remaining Mr. Burger of several locations that once operated in town over the years.