By Katy Stewart
The Lexington Planning Commission has agreed to a new version of the Sheetz site plan that includes suggestions by the Virginia Department of Transportation designed to minimize traffic congestion.
VDOT’s goal was not to approve or disapprove the Sheetz plan but to suggest improvements based on a study of the area’s traffic, said Terry Short, planning manager for VDOT’s Staunton district.
“We performed the service as a courtesy,” he said, referring to the study.
In December the planning commission gave preliminary approval to Sheetz to come up with a plan to build a convenience store and gas station on East Nelson Street, near the Route 11 Bypass. In January the planning commission postponed final approval because the VDOT study wasn’t completed.
Last week the commission approved 3-2 a Sheetz plan that includes a new right-hand turn lane from eastbound Nelson Street into the store. The final plan also includes shifting entrance and exit lanes to make them part of the existing intersection with Walker Street. Sheetz will cover the cost of both changes.
Short said the changes will make it easier for Sheetz customers and delivery trucks to access the lot from the Route 11 bypass.
Customers can “peel into the site before they even get to the intersection,” he said.
The company also agreed to pay for a traffic controller for the traffic light on Nelson Street. The computerized device will manage traffic at the intersection and synchronize with other traffic lights in the area.
“This saves taxpayers a lot of money down the road,” Short said.
Planning commission member Camille Miller surprised Sheetz officials when she proposed the elimination of five parking spots from the front of the store because she said they were ugly.
Miller wants shrubs instead. The commission approved the change.
Miller said she was concerned about the aesthetics of the red and yellow gas station and wants “something fabulous as a gateway to the city.”
The Sheetz plan included 48 total parking spots. City law requires 39 spots. Commission member Albert Carr voted against Miller’s change because he said such proposals were delaying the development.
“We can’t change the rules midstream,” he said.
Allen Stevens, real estate site selector for Sheetz, said most of the modifications to the plan will benefit the city and the company. But, he said, the company might still contest Miller’s reduction in the parking spaces.
“We have to see how important the five parking spaces are to us,” he said.