By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
A discussion over whether the city can legally restrict left turns out of a new business near Richmond Centre got heated Tuesday night during a Richmond Planning Commission work session.
Owner Steve Estepp wants to build a convenience store on the former Jack’s BP site between Exit 87 of Interstate 75 and the shopping complex’s main entrance.
City planners last month sent the store’s developers back to the drawing board after raising several issues about traffic flow in and out of the business, parking-space layout and vehicle access between two sign posts.
Attorney Mike Eaves, who represented the property owner at Tuesday’s work session, asserted the city had no authority to restrict left turns onto Barnes Mill Road, which is a state road.
Planning Director Jason Hart said in the past the state highway department has backed the planning commission when it made safety-related site plan requirements involving state roads.
Eaves said his client paid $1 million to purchase the property, and will probably be adding another $1 million in improvements. Estepp also owns two Shell stations in Lexington.
“The problem is you’re going to send all (Estepp’s) patrons into Richmond Centre to get out,” Eaves said, adding that fuel trucks also would have to exit through Richmond Centre if they were not allowed to turn left onto Barnes Mill Road.
“It isn’t going to work,” Eaves said.
A left turn out of the the convenience store’s exit/entrance, which is near a traffic-light intersection and an Interstate 75 exit, would have drivers crossing five lanes of traffic.
“We can’t approve something that’s going to kill someone,” Hart said.
Hart said the convenience store’s developers “jumped the gun” recently by tearing down the old building and digging up fuel tanks without first having a commission-approved site plan.
“A lot of things have happened with this site that has been premature,” Hart said.
City attorney Garrett Fowles, who was at the meeting, said Eaves may be correct in that the city can’t legally restrict access to a state road.
Other nearby businesses on that side of Barnes Mill, including Chick-fil-A and IHOP, all voluntarily agreed to no left turns from their properties, according to Hart.
Hart said he would contact the state highway department before the commission’s Feb. 27 business session to determine if the city may prohibit left turns onto Barnes Mill Road at that point. The meeting is 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.