A hearing held earlier this month concerning the proposed St. James City gas station was the first of many steps that must to take place before rezoning is approved.
Tom Gauthier, who wants to build the facility, said his vision and concept design for the gas station would accommodate fueling of cars, trucks, motor homes and boats on trailers.
"This is not a 24-hour truck stop as it has been called, but merely room to comfortably maneuver these larger vehicles and more pumps to accommodate the wider range of fuels," he said. "This will require more space than the Circle K, but will be smaller in business size without the traffic to draw from."
Gauthier said that St. James City is on the way to a dead end road that would most likely only generate customers from traffic driving past the property, which would be residents and visitors of the south end of the island. He said whatever is built will be large enough to serve St. James City.
Gauthier owns 4.4 acres on 4174 and 4140 Stringfellow Road, which is adjacent to the American Legion Post. He said he asked for rezoning of the entire property because he would like to keep his options open, so he could build something else on the remaining property.
Tony Palermo, Lee County Senior Planner, said the hearing that was held touched upon CC (community commercial), which includes zoning for such uses as gas stations and fast food, or CN (commercial neighborhood), which does not include gas stations or really intense retail uses.
He said the main question that came from the hearing was should they rezone the property to CC, which is really intense and could include anything.
"The hearing examiner is going to visit the property and write her own recommendation," Palermo said of the property.
Palermo said it is reasonable to say that the examiner is likely to recommend the property as CC and CN. He said the recommendation possibly could call for splitting the difference to allow for a gas station to be built on the property.
Gauthier said the examiner indicated that she was leaning toward the alternate proposal of rezoning the front portion of both lots to CC and the rear portion to CN. He said although that is not the final decision, the decision would allow the zoning for a gas station to be built.
"The staff report recommended denial of the entire property for rezoning to CC, but recommended approval of the front portions of both lots CS-1 to CC," he said.
A final decision may be made in August depending on how slow or fast the remaining process goes.
According to Gauthier, the county's view on the rezoning concept is that the developer will make use of the entire property as heavy usage as the zoning will permit.
"For this reason it was the county, not me, that came up with the idea of building a 30,000-square-foot retail or service facility on the property," he said.
Gauthier did a traffic study for the intended use of the land, which did not include a study on a 30,000-square-foot store.
"It was ridiculous to do a study on a 30,000-square-foot Wal-Mart because it would never be built there," he said. "Because of the lack of this traffic study, the county staff had to make the denial recommendation on the entire property."
The Pine Island Plan and what is suitable for the neighborhood will determine hours of operation, lighting and signage if approved.
In terms of finances, Gauthier said he has the resources available to make the gas station a realty if rezoning makes it possible and the people of St. James City want it at the south end of the island.
If the rezoning is approved, he said he will use the resources of an oil company to complete the process, which aides him in site planning, building permits, environmental permits and sources of supply.
Gauthier encourages feedback from residents on their views of having a gas station built in St. James City.
"If there is true opposition to having a gas station, I will stop the project before anything is built," he said.