County rejects controversial Mountville gas station

Published 5:50 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2020

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Mountville residents made their views on a would-be gas station in their community clear to the Troup County Board of Commissioners last week. On Tuesday night, commissioners rejected a rezoning application that would have allowed the project to move forward.

The vote was a unanimous 3-0 decision after Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead, whose district includes Mountville, made a motion to deny the rezoning application. 

Commissioners Morris Jones and Lewis Davis voted in favor of the motion. Commissioner Richard English was absent. 

The commission chamber was standing room only, with opponents of the development clapping after people spoke in opposition, and after the commission denied the application.

Commissioners did not go with the recommendations of county staff, namely Community Development Director Jay Anderson, who recommended the application be approved and fielded numerous questions from commissioners at last week’s work session. 

At the work session, he expressed his exasperation with commissioners’ questioning.

“You all [commissioners] will call me one day in a week saying, ‘Jay I think you’re being too liberal, you’re being too pro-growth, too pro-development,’ and then three days later you call me saying, ‘Hey I got a phone call that you’re killing the small businessman, you’re killing the little guy, you’re too restrictive, you’re too tough,’” Anderson said.

The application to rezone land at 4588 Greenville Road would have changed the property from agricultural residential to neighborhood commercial in order for owners Gulshan and Virgina Singh to build a gas station and convenience store there. Another item, a special use application for the gas station, was made moot by the rezoning’s failure.

Anderson and the other community development staff did not find anything objectionable when reviewing the application, according to the standards they examine. 

They found there had been some commercial business on Greenville Road in the past, and that the store would not overburden public facilities, excessively increase traffic or create adverse environmental effects.

Anderson explained that the Singhs also agreed to separate a few acres of the lot from the rezoning, to demonstrate that they were serious about not expanding beyond the gas station and developing the property further.

At last week’s meeting, several Mountville residents spoke to commissioners about their concerns with the gas station, ranging from drug and alcohol use, litter, light and noise pollution, increased traffic and commercialization. Mountville, an unincorporated community, is thought to be the oldest part of Troup County.

The overarching message from residents, though, was that they didn’t want any development. A Dollar General outside of Mountville faced similar opposition several years ago but was built anyway.

Before the public hearing part of the meeting began, Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews asked the crowd not to restate their arguments made last week and to be respectful. 

“We do ask that everyone please understand that the comments need to be directed to the commissioners, not back and forth between the individuals … we had a very lengthy discussion at our last meeting … if there’s any new information that you have to share with us, that’s what we would like to really focus on,” Crews said.

Connie Stothard, an engineer who helped design the site plan, took the podium to defend the plan and outline more concessions she and the Singhs had made after meeting with some Mountville residents. 

For instance, after concerns were raised about a long drive-thru line, Stothard said she “got creative” and outlined on a map where cars could wrap around the building on the property.

“They don’t want drugs in their parking lot either,” Stothard said, saying there would be cameras at the building running 24/7 and that the parking lot would have a locked gate after closing. 

Other accommodations offered were to make the store look like a country store to fit in with the community and to turn off all lights after closing.

Arthur Howard was the only Mountville resident who spoke in support at the last meeting. He spoke again on Tuesday, saying the Singhs had addressed all the potential issues and that it would be nice to have a store nearby.

“I would enjoy a store being there … If you work 14 hours a day, you don’t want to drive all over creation if you need something small,” Howard said.

Resident Judy Standridge said she had only encountered two people in Mountville who were in favor of the store, which she called an “abomination.”

“Will one man’s desire to set his business up, expand his business, make a profit, trump … our desires of the residents to maintain our historic, quiet, peaceful neighborhood?” she asked.

Mountville Baptist Church trustee Charles Newsome spoke in opposition at both meetings. He predicted the convenience store would not be successful, and that it would eventually leave an empty storefront in the community.

“We’re away from LaGrange. No one lives in Mountville for convenience. They live in Mountville because it’s a nice place to live, it’s quiet,” Newsome said.

Rochelle Woodward Davis and her husband, Gene Davis, both Mountville residents, spoke against the store. Gene Davis said it would “detract from the integrity and historical setting.”

“We didn’t ask for this, that has appeared … life and problems go together … the main thing is not that we have problems, it’s how we deal with them. And we are begging you all tonight, please hear us,” Rochelle Davis said.

After the meeting, Manny Singh, a partner in the business, said he accepted the commissioners’ decision, and that the property’s owners would have to see what their options were now.