Updated March 11, 11:55 p.m.–
Artistic renderings of the proposed 24-hour ARCO on Sunrise Boulevard were presented to a group of residents and business owners Wednesday night, drawing some positive comments — but mostly objections from nearby residents.
In a meeting that was somewhat tense at times, Architect Dan Goalwin of Barghausen Consulting gave a short overview of the project, focusing on the layout design being “very sympathetic to the neighborhood.” Acknowledging the audience was largely opposed to the proposal, he noted that the layout sought to address noise concerns by placing the car wash and dryer “as far away as possible” from homes located across the street on Sungarden Drive.
Renderings show the AM/PM convenience store is proposed to be facing inward at the corner of Sunrise and Sungarden, with the car wash located on the southeastern side of property. An eight-pump fueling area would be located in the center of the lot, and existing entrances on Sunrise Boulevard and Sungarden Drive would be utilized.
The visual presentation of the project garnered some positive comments even from those who have been vocal opponents of the project, including Sunrise Oaks Neighborhood Association President Nancy Graham.
“It looks beautiful,” Graham told the audience of about 30 people. “But at the end of the day, it’s still a gas station.”
Following Goalwin’s presentation, Graham sought to present the ARCO project proponents as out-of-towner’s seeking a profit, who wouldn’t have to face the day-to-day impact of a gas station in the area. She cited concerns about loitering, traffic, homelessness, 24-hour noise, and the location being too close to homes and a Montessori School.
“The corner needs to be developed, but with something that closes at 10 or 11 [at night] and does not spew toxins,” said Graham, before being interrupted by a pair of residents who said they wanted to hear “some positives” about the proposal.
“We’re tired of seeing an empty business at the corner,” said resident Lloyd Johns, referring to the long-vacant, two-story office building currently occupying the property where the ARCO would be built. “[The proposal] is modern, it’s up-to-date… It’s a waste of resources in our community to have that vacant building.”
The one-acre corner lot at 7056 Sunrise Blvd. is owned by prominent real estate developer Angelo Tsakopoulos. According to county property records, the existing 9,500-square-feet structure was built in 1981, but has stood vacant for several years.
Questions and answers
Responding to a question about residents being affected by outdoor lighting at night, Goalwin said lighting would be shielded — but, noting the 16-feet-high proposed lights, said “I’m not going to pretend you won’t see them.”
Opponents have also argued that another gas station is not needed on Sunrise Boulevard, in light of a Valero and Chevron gas station several blocks away at Old Auburn Road and another gas station at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Greenback Lane.
“If you can’t go half-a-mile to get your gas and food, then shame on you,” commented an audience member during the meeting. Addressing the concern, Goalwin said many drivers travel to get their favorite brand of gas instead of fueling up at the closest station.
Nearby business owners have also expressed opposition to the new ARCO, helping circulate a petition that organizers said has grown to more than 500 signatures.
“I’m hardly surviving right now,” said Karamjit Minhas, who owns a liquor store located in the same shopping center as the proposed ARCO. “It’s gonna kill my business.”
Is a compromise possible?
One resident questioned whether ARCO would be willing to compromise on either the 24-hour use, or dropping the proposed beer and wine sales.
Although noting that ARCO agreed to have the proposed car wash close at 11 p.m., Goalwin rejected the idea to reduce convenience store hours or drop alcohol sales. He said a reduction in hours would turn ARCO’s business model “upside down,” noting that the name “AM/PM” communicates 24-hour day and night open hours.
He also said businesses that close overnight are more prone to vandalism and said he “couldn’t imagine” fencing off the pumps at night, if the location were not 24-hour. Several residents interjected that crimes, other than vandalism, increase at 24-hour locations.
Addressing a prior concern from residents at a community meeting in January, Goalwin later confirmed with The Sentinel via email that the proposal does not include adding an additional Alcoholic Beverage Control license to the area. He said a beer and wine sales license “is being transferred,” but did not include additional details.
See prior story for more: “Residents pack out meeting to oppose new ARCO on Sunrise Blvd”
Although calling Goalwin’s presentation “very nice,” Graham said she remains staunchly opposed to the project, with layout changes not making the project any more appealing to her.
“Our goal is to continue opposition and get it rejected by the planning division and planning commission,” said Graham. “And then I’m going on vacation.”
City Planning Division Manager Colleen McDuffee told The Sentinel on Friday that the proposal is still under review by the planning division and did not have an estimated date for when the proposal might be heard by the planning commission.