MATTHEWS – A proposed Circle K at Matthews Township Parkway and Sam Newell Road must overcome two hurdles – the town’s reluctance to approve gas stations and the state’s reluctance to allow left-hand turns at busy intersections.
Town leaders are especially sensitive to this area because it’s considered a gateway into downtown Matthews, specifically the North End District. The intersection is already home to First Citizens Bank, CVS and Walgreens.
Developer Lat Purser envisions a Circle K in the wooded lot owned by David Hoyle. The three acres has room for another use, but Purser said he’s waiting on the market to decide that. He’s also willing to rule out uses based on town feedback.
Town staff compares the rezoning request to strip commercialization.
“From our perspective, the proposal as currently designed is inconsistent with the land use plan,” Senior Planner Jay Camp said. “I would offer to make it more consistent would probably be to eliminate the drive-thru fast food use on the site.”
Camp also recommended moving the gas station from the corner of the lot in favor of an office or mixed-use development.
“This is a gateway to downtown Matthews, we should treat it as such,” Camp said.
Purser acknowledged the town’s reluctance to approve gas stations in recent years, but he believes ongoing N.C. Department of Transportation projects will trigger the closure of a couple convenience stores at a time of rapid growth for Matthews.
This project would provide a gas station with right-in, right-out along N.C. 51, but members of the town staff and development team say NCDOT won’t allow a left-turn from Sam Newell Road.
NCDOT may consider a median cut on N.C. 51, but staff does not support that idea because it could affect access to nearby companies like Carotek and Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat.
Pursuer said NCDOT told his group that it wouldn’t allow left turns within 600 feet of a high traffic intersection, noting they were not responsible for other businesses in that corridor losing access.
Purser’s team reached out to Circle K for the site due to its great working relationship with towns.
The 10-pump gas station would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Circle K anticipates serving between 800 and 1,200 customers daily, Purser said.
Camp compared the look of the Circle K as somewhat residential – similar to the one at the roundabout at Idlewild and Matthews-Mint Hill roads. Purser said the brick building will look similar to First Citizens Bank across the street.
“Everything at this intersection is supposed to look good,” Purser said. “That’s why we think Circle K is the right user for this.”
But at least two commissioners, namely Kress Query and John Urban, will tell you that the First Citizens Bank at that intersection doesn’t convey the look of Matthews. Urban described it as something out of “Any Town, USA.”
Query went as far as to say during the public hearing that he doesn’t think the Circle K proposal enhances the entrance to town. He also had a problem with the potential of a drive-thru allowed on the second parcel.
Urban recused himself from the May 14 discussion because he owns an office building behind the site. However, that didn’t stop the commissioner from voicing his concerns about how the building looks on paper.
“That elevation is an ugly duckling,” Urban said.
He’s not necessarily opposed to a gas station at that corner. He points to a gas station in Davidson that’s right off Interstate 77 in which incoming motorists don’t initially see gas pumps.
He suggested moving the gas station from the corner of the property in favor of an office use. This would relieve pressure from the intersection and possibly create a new road network.
Two other neighbors spoke out against the project during the public hearing.
Dennis Kirvin has lived in a nearby townhome since 2008. He has doubts the project will enhance the neighborhood. And he’s never had the feeling that Matthews needed more gas stations or convenience stores.
Tom Tremblay, who owns property on Westchire Court, understands how a commercial venture could benefit from the project, but cited concerns over lighting and overnight hours.
“It’s an understatement to say this is not going to enhance at all the vision your guys have formulated for Matthews,” Tremblay told commissioners.
Purser plans on working with Circle K to incorporate feedback from the public hearing into their plans. They’ll go before the planning board later this month. Commissioners could vote on this as early as June 11.
“I think we’ve got some homework,” Purser said.