MOUNT PLEASANT - One of this town's more controversial developments will go back before a zoning board Monday night.
Those hoping to build a new Sunoco gas station at S.C. Highway 41, near the entrance to the Rivertowne subdivision, are seeking approval from the town's Board of Zoning Appeals.
Last fall, the board delayed a decision and requested a traffic study on the station's impact. That decision followed a two-hour hearing that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the council chambers - almost all of whom opposed the station.
A similarly large turnout is expected Monday, because that traffic study apparently has not eased concerns among many neighbors.
Jill Cragg, a Rivertowne resident whose home is near the proposed station's site, said she doesn't think the study paints a thorough picture of the future traffic on Highway 41, and she is still concerned about traffic and safety if the station were built.
"If there is ever any kind of environmental incident up there, there is only one way in and one way out of the Rivertowne community, and this community maxes out at 1,500 homes," she said. "We're stuck. That is also huge."
Monday night's decision is less political than judicial in nature. The zoning board is appointed by Town Council and operates as an independent panel. The parcel is zoned for neighborhood commercial, and Rivertowne's zoning says gas stations are permitted as a conditional use.
Cragg said she is frustrated that she and other Rivertowne residents can't threaten to vote someone out of office if they don't prevail.
"I can't say, 'You vote this way, I'm going to vote you out of office,'" she said. "I have no recourse. None of us do."
Newly elected Town Councilman Mark Smith lives in Rivertowne and heard a lot about the situation during his campaign last fall, and he has spoken out against it as a resident, although not as a councilman.
"I have spoken with members of the Board of Zoning Appeals and members of council and the town attorney to find out what my options are to take an active role," Smith said. "I do not support or want to see this project move forward."
The board's agenda includes an approximately 70-page traffic study by SRS Engineering of West Columbia.
That study said the proposed Sunoco station can be expected to generate 4,030 two-way daily trips, including 195 trips during the morning rush hour and 242 during the evening peak. Of those, about 1,410 will be new trips - as opposed to motorists stopping there on their way by.
Town Planning Director Christiane Farrell said the town's traffic consultant will attend the meeting to answer any questions the board has.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.