LEXINGTON -- Downtown Lexington may soon have two gas stations.
Englefield Oil Co. of Heath is looking to put a station and Duchess convenience store at 15 East Main Street, the former site of Lexington Plaza.
John Gordon, vice president of construction at Englefield Oil, shared his proposal for a gas station and convenience store with the village planning commission during a public meeting on Sept. 15.
The design includes a 4,800-square-foot convenience store. Englefield also plans to remove the two curb cuts on Plymouth Street and Main Street and replace each pair with one 50-foot curb cut in the middle.
The planning commission ultimately voted in favor of granting a conditional permitted use certificate. The permitted use is contingent upon the developer meeting all of the village engineer’s conditions, including a traffic study.
After the traffic study is conducted, the village engineer may make additional recommendations to the planning commission. The planning commission and Englefield must agree on the results of the traffic study before the project can move forward.
If Englefield comes back to the planning commission and demonstrates that its plans will meet the village’s requirements, the project will go to Lexington Village Council for approval. If approved by council, it will go back to the planning commission for a certificate of appropriateness.
This certificate has to do with the aesthetics of the building, its external materials and signage and how it fits into downtown Lexington as a whole.
“(The central business district) is a design review overlay district, so they review it for consistency, the way it looks,” explained Lexington Mayor Brian White.
“Our zoning regulations have what's called a 'design review overlay district' and that has some standards in it on how things need to look, how big they are, how far they sit back, so planning commission would review that with the developer."
Numerous residents voiced opposition during the initial planning commission meeting. Many had concerns about the impact on traffic, which can already get congested during peak travel times.
Multiple members of the planning commission shared those concerns, including chair Mark Reisdorf.
“They claim that (turning in and out, getting a fuel truck into the parking lot) is easy to do. Well, everything's easy on paper,” said Reisdorf, who works as a school bus driver. “At times there's a cluster down there. At other times there's hardly any traffic.”
Nevertheless, Reisdorf said the commission’s role is to make sure new developments meet the village's zoning requirements and other laws. The commission can’t reject an application simply based on public opinion.
“It’s a permitted use within the central business district. Legally, we can’t really deny the use,” he said. “At the end of the day, any government really should not be standing in the way of business. We don’t control the market.”
The look and feel of downtown is a big priority to Lexington residents, according to the results of a village-wide survey. The survey was administered at the beginning of 2021 by Leverage Lexington, the steering committee for the village's updated comprehensive plan.
More than 180 of the survey's 850 respondents said improving the downtown area and making it more attractive was a big opportunity for the village. Many residents said maintaining a small-town feel was important.
Six respondents voiced opposition to a second gas station in the village -- though the possibility was merely a rumor at the time.
When asked what residents disliked about downtown, 155 respondents mentioned a lack of retail, shopping and entertainment options. More than 200 mentioned empty buildings and eyesore vacant lots. Traffic lights and related issues were a concern for 154 respondents.
White, who advises the citizen-led Leverage Lexington committee, said he thinks regulations surrounding development downtown may become tighter in the future.
"I suspect the comprehensive plan will probably recommend the village relook at zoning moving forward," he said. "But we operate on the current zoning regulations that are in place now.”
"The current regulations govern, not what we're doing in the future."
Both White and Reisdorf encouraged members of the community to make their voices heard at future meetings.
“It’s public outcry that can probably carry more weight than we (the planning commission) do,” Reisdorf said.