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RaceTrac approved near Midway Elementary

A new RaceTrac store is coming to the intersection of Mullinax Road, Hwy. 371, and Atlanta Highway, Hwy. 9, though not without some fiery comments from commissioners and county residents.

On Wednesday, Commissioners voted to approve rezoning 1.97 acres at the southwest corner of the intersection from neighborhood shopping district, NS, and commercial business district, CBD, to all CBD with a conditional-use permit.

The final motion passed by a 4-1 vote, with Commission Chairman Todd Levent, who represents the area as District 3 commissioner, opposed.

That motion included rezoning the land, approving the permit and approved variances increasing the maximum number of parking spaces from 22 to 27, reducing the distance between petroleum storage and residential districts from 500 feet to 206 feet, along with a site plan and conditions.

The residential property near the planned store requiring the distance variance was Midway Elementary School, which has a residential zoning.

The 5,411-square-foot store will be open around the clock and will have eight gas pumps.

Prior to that vote, Levent made a motion to approve the zoning and conditional-use permit, with operating hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and a reduction to six pumps.

That vote failed by 2-3 vote, with Commissioners Pete Amos, Cindy Jones Mills and Laura Semanson opposed.

“I’m not going to get into a match with y’all because I’m trying to stick with what I think is a fair balance for everybody,” Levent said after the motion failed.

Officials with RaceTrac pushed back against limiting the pumps and the hours.

“We would object that any zoning condition limiting the hours is absolutely an abuse of your discretion and power,” said Julie Sellers, an attorney representing RaceTrac. “There are no businesses in that area that have conditions that restrict their hours.”

Several nearby residents came out to speak against the store or one of the variances in the zoning.

Christine Caines, who spoke against the store at a previous planning board meeting, said she did not approve of the size of the store.

“Their 24-hour operation and mega-sized presence resembles an exit-ramp gas station, and that is not the model of our neighborhood,” she said.

Speaker Jay Guidry said he did not oppose the store but felt Levent should recuse “based on the fact the zoning has a personal matter that’s impacted his business” and other issues during a public comments portion of the meeting.

County Attorney Jeffrey Strickland, filling in for Ken Jarrard, said he had seen, which he said was limited, he had “not seen any participation on [Levent’s] part that would necessarily warrant recusal.”

Levent said he previously rented a commercial property near the proposed store but “was out of there.”

RaceTrac has more than 95 locations across the state, and the stores appear to be growing in popularity in Forsyth County.

In August, commissioners approved a new location at the intersection of Canton Highway and Post Road and a rebuilt store at the intersection of Buford Highway and Market Place Boulevard.

Commissioners also approved rezoning a new store at 1385 McFarland Parkway, the site of a former BP station, in May and approved plans for stores at Hammond’s Crossing and McGinnis Ferry in February.