FORT MILL — An official with QuikTrip, the gas station eyeing property at the corner of Sutton Road and Hwy. 160, says that whether a zoning variance they’ve requested is approved or not, he’s “pretty sure” the company will build on the site anyway.
The variance would allow the company to reduce the 40 foot buffer required along Sutton Road, a matter that will be decided at a Dec. 13 York County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
“It’s an absolutely great site,” said Mike Thornbrugh, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for QuikTrip. “I’m pretty sure we will [build].”
Some Fort Mill residents have concerns that the gas station would increase traffic to the intersection or that it will bring crime to the area. The property is already zoned for a gas station and convenience store and has been for more than 10 years.
Some of the residents concerned about the QuikTrip live in nearby Baxter Village. They said a convenience store doesn’t fit into the community’s master plan, but also admit to never looking at the zoning map before they bought their homes.
Former Fort Mill School Board member Michael Johnson takes a seat on the York County Council in January and the QuikTrip property is just outside his district – directly across the street from the district boundary. No matter, the QuikTrip controversy brings up the importance of being familiar with the county’s zoning map, he said.
“The average person doesn’t look at that stuff, but it’s there. All you have to do is look at the map,” he said. “It’s hard for people who’ve moved here since that happened to say ‘I don’t want you to do this.’ It’s like moving next to a hog farm and complaining about the smell.”
The man Johnson is replacing York County Councilman David Bowman (R- Dist. 1) agrees that zoning maps hold a wealth of information. Bowman has been receiving calls and emails from residents concerned about the QuikTrip. He said he explained the process of zoning appeals and talked to them about the possible outcomes, although the QuikTrip property is not in his district. He suggests that although QuikTrip can build on the property regardless of the residents’ concerns, this situation could serve as a “warning light” to residents.
If residents are concerned about traffic and certain types of businesses around their homes, Bowman suggests that they become more familiar with how parcels around their homes and communities are zoned. Home Owners Associations need to be in touch with planning departments, he added, and “learn what is out there and what is being planned.”
“Get to know how the process works. Know who to call. Be in communication,” he said.
Chad Williams, the York County Councilman who represents the district that does cover Baxter Village and the QuikTrip property, could not be reached for comment.
QuikTrip brings new jobs, addresses crime concerns
Not everyone wants to see QuikTrip make a hasty exit from the community. In an informal survey on fortmilltimes.com, 219 users voted in favor of the gas station coming to the intersection, as opposed to 112 against the gas station.
The company would bring between 18 to 20 new jobs to start, and could bring a maximum of 22 to 23 jobs depending on how much business the gas station brings in.
Thornbrugh said that the positions are well paid, with the store manager making an average of $70,000 a year and the assistant store manager around $50,000, with benefits.
“In our opinion, we’re not a typical gas station/convenience store,” he said. “They are pretty good paying jobs, with good benefits and salaries.”
Thornbrugh also addresses residents concerns about crime. QuikTrip doesn’t operate in dangerous areas, he said, and have well monitored security systems and well lit parking areas that “have very little instance of crime.”
“Our strict rule of thumb is ‘Would you let your son or daughter work there?’ If it’s a ‘No,’ then we won’t open there,” he said.
QuikTrip would be allowed to sell beer and wine despite its proximity to Philadelphia United Methodist Church because it will require only an off premise beer and wine license, which does not require distance from the church.
Residents band together
Residents interested in attending the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting are invited to gather at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at 3387 Richards Crossing. Fort Mill resident Mark Van Sickle is organizing a meeting to give interested residents a chance to prepare a presentation for the Zoning Board of Appeals against QuikTrip’s variance request.