The potential for a gas station and mini-mart on Hillhurst Road has Ridgefield residents concerned over impacts from the plan.
The Ridgefield City Council heard testimony from residents as part of a public hearing on a previously-passed emergency moratorium on gas stations in Commercial Neighborhood Business-zoned land during their Aug. 22 meeting.
The council had approved the six-month moratorium during its July 11 meeting. As part of the emergency moratorium process, the council needed to conduct a public hearing within 60 days of the approval, leading to last month’s testimony.
The moratorium was spurred on by one particular development proposal located at the corner of South Hillhurst Road and South Sevier Road. In 2016, a site plan application was submitted and eventually approved that featured three buildings on the property — two as retail or restaurant space and another with ground-floor retail and second-floor office space, according to a staff report.
In June 2019, a new applicant contacted the city looking to have one of the originally-proposed buildings become a gas station, according to the staff report, and through the pre-application process the city council became aware of the development. The council expressed concerns that a gas station “might not be compatible with the vision and intent” of the Commercial Neighborhood Business zoning, which currently would allow such a station, the staff report read.
The emergency moratorium was intended to give time for staff research and public outreach before moving forward with any sort of development involving a gas station, according to the staff report.
Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart said the current zoning was applied to the parcel in the mid-1990s as part of the city’s first comprehensive growth management plan.
Of the nine residents who testified, none spoke in favor of having a gas station in the proposed development. Bruce Carpenter, secretary for the Canyon View Homeowners Association, a neighborhood adjacent to the proposed development, talked about a meeting the day prior where he said 110 attended.
At that meeting, the developers presented their plan for the site. Carpenter said residents of several neighborhoods in the city attended and voiced “near-unanimous” opposition to the fueling station aspect of the development, saying it didn’t fit into the area with concerns over safety, fumes, night lighting and traffic.
Carpenter said that the proposed fueling station could jeopardize the ability for homeowners to get Federal Housing Authority-approved mortgage loans based on proximity to fuel storage that would occur at the site. He also said residents expressed concerns over the need for a mini-mart at the site, another part of the new proposal, and how it would affect the markets downtown.
“From the feedback, it was reasonably clear that the neighborhoods did not consider a gas station an acceptable use of the property,” Carpenter said.
“Personally I invite something other than house after house after house around me,” Barbara Wright, a Wishing Wells Estates resident, said, though she added she didn’t want to see businesses that duplicated amenities already available within a reasonable distance. The current development plan did that, from her perspective. She instead suggested a daycare, exercise gym, bakery or attorney’s office as alternatives.
Others who testified brought up concerns over health impacts on nearby residents, as well as traffic from delivery trucks and fuel tankers. One resident, Larry Farkash, said the current zoning isn’t compatible with current realities due to the growth that has happened in the decades since it was placed.
“People 20 years ago never imagined what I see now driving down Hillhurst. I’m sure they just couldn’t have predicted that,” Farkash said.
No action was taken by the council at the meeting as the moratorium had already been approved. Stuart addressed a couple of avenues council could take moving forward. At the time of the moratorium’s expiration, the council will either have changed code to align with the moratorium, done nothing and let the moratorium expire or extended the moratorium to allow for more time to look at potential code changes.
Stuart said staff would take the next month to two months to present information on how to move forward so as not to “push the limits” of the current moratorium.