Last month, 22 residents urged the Cobb Planning Commission to stop a giant convenience store from being built near Interstate 75, on the northwest intersection of Wade Green and Hickory Grove roads.
That hearing dispelled rumors the QuikTrip was a truck stop, which residents feared based on site plans showing 59 parking spaces and nine fueling stations with 18 pumps total.
Richard Calhoun, of the Marietta-based Gregory Doyle’s Real Estate law firm, said the new QuikTrip location would be a 5,700-square-foot “generation three store.” Designs for the previous generation of QuikTrip stores were closer to 3,600 square feet.
The extra space is for an extended food menu, with made-to-order pizza and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a barista serving coffee and ice cream.
The plans involve tearing down three residential homes and two abandoned convenience stores over a 2.4-acre tract of land.
At Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, Calhoun emphasized the only reason the plan was brought to the board for approval was a small change to the zoning from neighborhood retail and residential to community commercial.
Even if the property stayed in the original categories, Calhoun said the vehicle-related commercial use with a convenience store would fit the zoning parameters.
The only reason for the change to community retail commercial is because that category allows for above-ground water retention for drainage, Calhoun said. The neighborhood and residential categories only allow for below-ground water storage.
A traffic nightmare?
Opponents of the proposed QuikTrip say the amount of pumps and parking spaces shows the development far exceeds a neighborhood use, which is how the corner should be zoned.
Last month, 22 people came in opposition to the zoning case. On Tuesday, eight people were in opposition, but the group selected Clark LaFontaine of Acworth, who has worked as a project manager for consulting firms, to speak for them.
LaFontaine appeared before the board with several images projected for the audience to view Tuesday morning, including photographs of zoning signs lying on the ground at the site.
North of the proposed QuikTrip site are three major subdivisions with 120 homes filled by commuters who must use Hickory Grove Place to reach arterial roads leading north to Highway 92 and west to I-75.
Hickory Grove Place ends on both sides with stop signs, not stoplights.
Adding the QuikTrip may not attract more drivers as a destination, but it will be “a generator of congested traffic,” LaFontaine said.
He said the concern is not just the amount of traffic, but the “interaction” of traffic.
To address these concerns, Calhoun said the developer met with residents, including Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the area and was in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting.
Over the past month, Calhoun drafted a new stipulation letter and site plan to make changes to the flow of traffic in and out of the parking lot.
For instance, instead of having three access points at the back of the QuikTrip off Hickory Grove Place, there will now only be one entrance directly across from Cindy Lane.
That would mean customers will enter into the commercial shopping area to the north and drive through the shared parking lot to reach the gas station.
There will be no left turns into the QuikTrip parking lot from Wade Green Road going north and only right turn in and right turn out going west on Hickory Grove Road.
Planning Commission still undecided
Planning Commissioner Christi Trombetti, who represents the area, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Planning Commissioner Judy Williams, who said she also attended the “well organized” meetings with the developer and residents, took the lead in discussing the decision by the board.
“I think we have come a long way,” Williams said.
Last month, Trombetti said she was not concerned about the increased traffic, calling the intersection a pass-through area, not a destination. Instead she highlighted the two current blighted commercial buildings that would be replaced with a new state-of-the-art convenience store.
Calhoun agreed at Tuesday’s meeting about cleaning up the eyesores.
“We are eliminating two worn-out, vacant gas stations,” he said.
Dereck Maze, who owns a BP gas station across Hickory Grove Drive from the proposed site, said there are two other gas stations less than 2 miles away.
The competition is why the gas stations at that corner failed in the first place, Maze said.
Williams said the amount of nearby convenience stores is not a consideration in this case.
“It is free enterprise. It is a free market,” Williams said.
Last month, Patrick Donner, a project manager for QuikTrip, told the Planning Commission, “in all reality, gasoline, tobacco and alcohol industries are dying,” so many QuikTrips will now have a full-service kitchen area but no inside dining.
No other ideas for developing the vacant site were suggested at Tuesday’s meeting, although critics to the plan have mentioned wanting a sit down restaurant in that location.
The updated site plan and stipulation letter was given to the Planning Commission members Monday, with the developer and residents meeting up until the last minute. Chairman Mike Terry said the updates had too much information to reevaluate the plan so quickly.
The Planning Commission voted 4-0, with Trombetti absent, to hold any action for 30 more days.
Also, next week the Cobb County Department of Transportation will conduct a new traffic study of the intersection, once spring break in Cobb has ended.