Neighborhood Gas Stations

TC-2B-15 is the number assigned to a proposed change to Raleigh’s development code affecting gas stations.  This text change is too weak to protect neighborhoods.  Let me explain why and how I think we can strengthen those protections.  For a quick summary of what I support click: Gas Station Summary.

There are a number of provisions in this proposed change that will harm neighborhoods and impact nearby homes.

For example, “All vacuuming and compression machines located outside must be at least 50 feet from a residential district or use and shall not exceed a noise level reading of 55 dB(A).”

Along with this change is another limiting fuel sales, car washing, and vacuuming to between 6AM and 11PM.

The prospect of someone vacuuming their car just before 11PM or at 6AM just 50 feet from someone’s property is ridiculous.  Also, note that there are no time restrictions on compression machines.  Thus, someone could pump their tires right below your bedroom window at four in the morning.

The text change also allows up to 8 pumps within 50 feet of a residence.

Today’s super stations have morphed from small neighborhood service centers such as this one:

gas station

Notice the white building on the right.  I remember this station from when I was young (even though this picture is from the 40’s, the station continued to operate well into the 1960’s).  There were two pumps and two service bays.  This station was not open until 11PM and there was no car washing or vacuuming.  There was no large lit up canopy and no loud music playing.

Today’s stations sport tall, brightly lit canopies.  This text change allows a distance of 16 feet from the ground to the bottom of the canopy and up to 23 feet to the top of the roof of the canopy.

Lastly, although fuel sales and vacuuming are limited to the hours of 6AM and 11PM, the hours of operation of the convenience store associated with the pumps have no such limits.

This text change does not protect homes.  Fifty feet is far too close to a residence for gas pumps, vacuums, and compression machines.  Although some existing stations might be that close to some homes today, we should not encourage new stations to be so closely located.

In contrast, we need guidelines for siting gas stations.  A quick survey of Internet resources suggest that stations should not be located within 300 feet of a residence.  There should be screening using landscaping and other means to visually block stations from residential areas.  There should be restrictions not only on how loudly music is played, but also when it can be played.  I favor prohibiting music before 9AM and after 8PM for stations located near residential areas.

Lastly, there should be a needs test based on traffic volumes, existing stations, and other measurable parameters to determine if a station should be allowed on a given site.

Let me know your thoughts about this proposed text change.  As I say, we can do much better by taking steps NOW to strengthen our protections of neighborhoods.