Thursday, March 22, 2012

Part 2: Objections to a Speedway Gas Station near Crain’s Run Homes

On Friday, March 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Miami Township Community Room, Speedway of America held a meeting for the residents of Crain’s Run Home Owner Association to inform them of an upcoming rezoning request that Speedway would be making to allow them to build a gas station at the Corner of Wood Road and Austin Boulevard, immediately adjacent to Crain’s Run homes. (Click here for more information.) During this meeting, Crain’s Run residents posed a good number of objections to a Speedway gas station being built in close proximity to resident homes. Most of these questions were addressed by Jeff Frazer, the Speedway project manager for this proposed Speedway location.

Resident questions and concerns included the location, fumes and smell, crime, traffic, litter, landscaping, and lighting. Below is a summary of each one, answers from Speedway, and additional information gathered after the meeting.

The #1 issue that was voiced repeatedly was that building a gas station immediately next to Crain’s Run homes did not fit the suburban setting that was part of the appeal of buying a home and living in Crain’s Run. Most people did not feel it was safe or wise to place a gas station immediately adjacent to residential homes with families and children in them. Jeff Frazer from Speedway repeatedly referred us to a Speedway station on the corner Smithville and Huffman as an urban example of this working. Residents responded that none of us purchased an urban home, to which no reply was given by Speedway. Residents also expressed concern for home values with a gas station this close to their homes.

Below are photos taken from the Speedway station on the corner Smithville and Huffman. This is the example that Speedway points to when trying to demonstrate how residential housing “works” next to a gas station.

Homes near the Speedway on Smithville.
Mismatched toilet seat, and distressed wall tiles. 
Wide shot showing local houses.
A small sample of the grounds at this Speedway.
See the whole Smithville Speedway album

Fumes and Smell
Another prominent issue was the amount of fumes that gas stations produce. Crain’s Run resident and Meteorologist Jim Noel spoke up on this in the meeting, and also sent me a note to post on this website.  

A new Speedway gas station is proposed near Wood Rd and Austin Pike. This gas station will back up to Crain's Run homes and families, in an area currently zoned residential.  

One issue from building  a new gas station so close to Crain's Run will be  the high potential for gas fume exposure by residents whose homes back up to this gas station. Those fumes will be most noticeable on nights where there is an atmospheric inversion, where the temperature is slightly warmer above the ground combined with light winds. This is common on bitter cold winter nights and much of the summer. It is not possible to keep all these fumes contained, and too much exposure to these fumes can lead to many issues.

Moreover, a gas station built so closely to Crain’s Run can expose families to other issues that are possible from leaks and exposure of ground conditions to runoff chemicals.

It would be much safer for all of Crain’s Run to have this station located further away from residences.

Jim Noel
Meteorologist and hydrologist

Speedway’s answer to this concern was that they use “Stage II Vapor Recovery,” which sounds impressive. However, Stage II Vapor Recovery is required by the Ohio EPA in this area, and Speedway’s efforts are nothing beyond the minimum EPA requirements. The important – and oft repeated – message from Speedway was that they are doing what they are required to do. This, however, failed to actually address the concern over fumes and was a fairly canned response. It is not merely the fumes from the act of pumping gas that will degrade the air quality in Crain’s Run, it is also the additional traffic, leaks and spillage that contributes to this.

The issues of car exhaust and fuel spillage were not addressed by Speedway, and I suspect that is because  the only remedy for these two issues would be to not place a gas station this close to Crain’s Run homes.

Residents also questioned whether a gas station in that location would impact the Crain’s Run housing development’s crime rate. This issue remains unanswered as no data on the subject was presented in the meeting. Plus, I have been looking for information on this topic, and so far it has been hard to find solid studies specific enough to show how crime rates increase when a gas station is placed next to families in a residential area. One article I found did state that “convenience stores, gas stations and other suburban and rural targets are increasingly using security systems, which can leave unsecured homes as more tempting targets. City dwellers tend to be more vigilant, have home-security systems and keep doors locked. All these factors can funnel crime to the points of least resistance.

In addition, I did find that the Shell station on Byers was the target of a robbery not long ago, so this is an issue that’s not far from home already.

Further Reading…
New Haven Owner: Gas station robbed 100 times in 30 years

From all counts, it looks like the traffic for the intersection of Wood Road and Austin Boulevard is going to really increase, especially if a gas station is put there. The traffic study indicates an estimated 1,954 trips (in/out) or 977 cars per day will visit a gas station in that location. However, I believe these numbers were based on the same study that estimated the traffic for the Austin/741 intersection, and according to those numbers, Austin/741 is already exceeding the 2035 projections.

Beside the sheer volume of traffic this site will generate, there is also the matter of how cars will access and depart the proposed station. The plans show an entrance/exit on to Austin, and some of the residents at the meeting felt it was too close to the intersection to be safe. Others pointed out that if drivers leaving the station cannot turn left they will start using Crain’s Creek to do so.

Increased traffic also feeds many of the other issues, namely increased litter, crime, fumes and noise, and decreased safety.

Another issue that was addressed in the meeting is that the proposed plans show trees and shrubs that are at least 15 years old. Also, it was pointed out by a resident that the plant sizes shown on the Plant Schedule presented in the meeting represent the smallest and least expensive plants a developer can use. This means that it will be many, many years before these plants will offer the type of screening depicted in the drawings. At the meeting, resident concerns were acknowledged and noted.  
Proposed Speedway showing 15 year old vegetation.
Proposed small shrubs and trees.
How the shrubs will look after a couple of years.
Also how Speedway shrubs look after a couple of years. 
Another issue that came up at the meeting was the issue of lighting. If the proposed Speedway station is put in, the residents and the township are worried about the glare and light pollution produced by conventional lighting. Speedway’s answer to this issue is to use LED lighting. I have looked at Speedway’s LED lighting setups, and it does make the gas station less of an eyesore. The only issue I have is that these lights will shine all night, so some light pollution will still occur. The message Speedway seemed to be giving us is that it’s not as bad as it could be.

It’s also important to note that the Speedway project manager felt that the Township’s initial requirement for lighting would not be sufficient, and that eventually the amount of LED lighting would have to be added to at a later date.

Now that you’ve read a recap of the meeting between Crain’s Run residents and Speedway and read concerns that were raised by your neighbors, the next article in this series will address how to voice your opinion with those who need to hear it.

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