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Thursday, June 2, 2005

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Residents Win in Rezoning Battle
Frederick County Planning Commission Rejects Truck Stop Proposal

By Laura B. Withers
The Winchester Star

Holding handmade signs written diligently in black marker, more than 30 Clearbrook residents asked the Frederick County Planning Commission to “say no” to another truck stop in their neighborhood Wednesday.

The group calls themselves Clearbrook Citizens for Safety. All members live across or near a strip of land between Interstate 81 and U.S. 11 south of Rest Church Road that until Wednesday was thought to be the future site of a Mr. Fuel truck stop.

The Planning Commission voted against the county’s Comprehensive Plan and sided with frustrated residents.

Commissioners voted 10-1 to deny landowner T. Pat Manning’s request to rezone the 12 acres for industrial use. Commissioner Greg L. Unger voted against the measure, and Cordell Watt and George J. Kriz were absent.

The news was especially hard for Manning, who said he spent the last six years preparing the plan and addressing county planners’ concerns.

The president of Arogas Inc. withdrew a similar rezoning request in 2000, after county supervisors tabled it because it did not meet the regional land-use plan’s requirements.

On Wednesday, planning commissioners said Manning did everything he was supposed to do and ended up with a virtually perfect proposal in accordance with the county’s designated land uses.

But the project is just in a bad location, said Planning Commissioner John Light, before introducing a motion to deny the request.

“I think Mr. Manning is the guy we’ve been looking for, unfortunately he’s just in the wrong place,” Light said. “I said that last time, I’ll say it again.”

All but two of the 10 people who spoke at the public hearing were against the request.

Many said trucks trying to get into the Flying J truck stop on Rest Church Road already stack back to I-81 at all hours of the day.

State transportation officials also warned that another truck stop near on- and off-ramps to I-81 could create a dangerous driving situation and congest the intersection of U.S. 11 and Rest Church Road.

But Virginia Department of Transportation officials were generally satisfied with transportation plans in the rezoning application.

According to traffic impact studies, the proposed truck stop and accompanying restaurants and stores would generate about 4,800 new car and truck trips per day.

Tractor trailers are estimated to make up about 2,000 of those trips each day.

Manning said that means a truck would be entering or leaving the gas station and restaurant facility every 1 1/2 minutes.

But Light said that’s almost impossible.

He said sitting at a red light at Rest Church Road and U.S. 11 takes two minutes as is.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Light said.

Commissioner Roger L. Thomas said he couldn’t see how all the trucks were going to fit.

“It seems to me like we’re just making a bad situation worse,” he said.

The Clearbrook residents filling pews in front of him couldn’t agree more and showed their appreciation for the commissioners’ decision with a short applause and a communal sigh of relief.

Some convened in the hallway outside of the Board of Supervisors room after the vote to continue the conversation.

Ed Butler, spokesman for Clearbrook Citizens for Safety, said every morning when he drives to work he sees “no parking” signs on the southbound on-ramp to I-81, warning truckers that they cannot stop there.

The Frederick County native said the air quality near his home is “terrible” from the diesel fumes that roll in from the nearby Flying J.

“We’ve gotten an education from Flying J,” he said. “We know what [another truck stop] will do. We know how the trucks stack up.”

When Butler finished speaking to the Planning Commission, other members of the neighborhood group held up the “say no” signs, silently communicating their wishes.

Many of them said they will bring the same message to the Board of Supervisors, when it considers the rezoning request June 22.

Present at the meeting in the Frederick County Office Complex were Light, Thomas, Unger, Charles S. DeHaven Jr., Robert A. Morris, Charles E. Triplett, Rick C. Ours, Pat Gochenour, Marie F. Straub, H. Paige Manuel, and June Wilmot. Watt and Kriz were absent.

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