The Owensboro Metropolitan Commission (OMPC) voted in favor Thursday night to rezone 4.26 acres of land at the corner of 4211 Bold Forbes Way and KY 54 that will soon hold a FiveStar gas station in front of the neighborhood of Thorobred East. Residents of the neighborhood filled City Hall Thursday night to protest the rezoning that would allow the gas station to sell alcohol.
Newcomb Oil has plans to build the FiveStar gas station in the near future, but residents of Thorobred East expressed a variety of concerns in regard to the upcoming development. The majority of concerns revolved around traffic issues, the sale of alcohol in close proximity to a “family neighborhood” and criminal activity that could potentially arise from the gas station itself.
Others argued that, in 1976, Thompson Homes purchased what used to be agricultural land with the goal to build commercial and residential development, with the promise that no liquor store would ever be included in that development. As stated by Mike Sullivan, the attorney representing Newcomb Oil, Thompson Homes strictly said they would never build “a liquor store” in that area.
“All this application is doing is keeping it in the same [B-4] classification it originally was,” Sullivan said. “Thompson said in 1976 that one of the proposed uses could be a convenient store. He said he wouldn’t put a liquor store there — those were his exact words.”
Liquor won’t be sold at the Five Star gas station, but beer and malt liquors would. He added that Fiscal Court had placed no restrictions on rezoning the property and that OMPC also approved the rezoning at a recent hearing.
“They intend for this to be a high quality store,” he said. “It’s in compliance with the comprehensive plan. From a legal position, we don’t think there’s any conditions that need to be changed.”
Resident Stephen Boyens said those in Thorobred East wanted OMPC to continue enforcing the zoning restrictions that would prevent the gas station to sell alcohol. He felt OMPC presented this potential development at very short notice to the residents of Thorobred East, who feel that a gas station sitting directly in front of many of their homes will lower the value of their properties.
“The state has minimum and maximum requirements and we certainly met all of them,” said OMPC Director Brian Howard.
Congested traffic was the other hot topic at Thursday’s meeting as at least a dozen residents came forward to express their frustration with the already congested traffic flow on KY 54, and their worry that a gas station would create dangerous situations and even more congestion.
“What’s changed [since 1976?],” resident Charles Mattingly asked them. “There are 24 restaurants in a two-mile straight. Fourteen serve alcohol. There are four liquor stores, one bar, and three gas stations that sell alcohol and one that doesn’t. The traffic conditions have multiplied probably ten-fold. At 5 p.m., it takes 30 minutes to go two miles.”
Earl Henderson said Owensboro was a “quiet, peaceful, happy town” 28 years ago.
“But then it changed,” he said. “Restaurants started coming to Owensboro. If they wanted a bar, they got it. Our town has gone to a drinking town. Alcohol has killed more people than wars, car wrecks, cancer put together. You can’t tell me we need another outlet for alcohol in this town.”
Others said they were concerned about a gas station ruining the family-friendly environment in Thorobred East. Children would no longer be able to ride their bikes through the neighborhood because, as stated by one resident, gas stations bring drug trafficking and higher crime rates along with them.
Sullivan said Newcomb Oil had already set money aside for traffic improvements if the state deems them necessary after studying the traffic conditions around the business for the year after its development.
“We asked [the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet] to review the traffic data, and they did,” Howard said. “The state didn’t require a traffic impact study as they have with many of our projects in the past.”