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The proposed site for the QT Travel Center was a 35.5 acre tract of land on Sigman Road SW at the corner of Iris Drive at Exit 78 on I-20 East.

CONYERS — By a vote of 4-0 Monday night, the Rockdale County Board of Adjustments affirmed the decision of Planning and Development Director Kc Krzic to deny a land disturbance permit for a developer who wants to build a truck stop/travel center on Sigman Road at I-20. BOA Chair Randy Brennan was absent.

William Corey and U.S. Enterprises Inc. want to build a Quik Trip Travel Center on a 35.5-acre lot located at 2527 Sigman Road SW. The property abuts the corner of Sigman Road and Iris Drive at Exit 78 off I-20 East.

There is currently nothing in the county’s Unified Development Ordinance or the recently updated and approved Comprehensive Land Use Plan that allows truck stops/travel centers in the county. Last fall, in response to the owner wanting to develop the property as a truck stop/travel center, planning staff developed a text amendment to the UDO that would create a definition that would allow the facilities as a special use permit in C2 and M1 zoning. However, after several meetings, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in December to deny the text amendment.

Krzic said the developers then sought a land disturbance permit for the property in August.

“In late August they submitted a set of construction documents for a land disturbance permit within our office,” said Krzic. “We sent the engineered drawings out to each department to review. During the review, I noted that the use is classified as a truck stop and, therefore, prohibited by code. They appealed my decision that the proposed use is a truck stop.”

The main issue of difference appeared to be the developer’s plan to have separate tractor-trailer diesel fueling and gas/diesel fueling islands for cars and light duty trucks, and parking spaces and a weighing scale for the tractor-trailers, which the county insists makes it a truck stop.

The Board of Adjustments first heard the appeal at its November meeting and tabled it until this month to get more information from both sides.

Public comment was allowed at the November meeting, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd, the majority of which appeared to be in opposition, but with only 10 minutes allowed, very few citizens got a chance to speak.

At the start of Monday night’s meeting, which again attracted a large crowd of citizens, BOA member Iffat Walker attempted to add public comment on the issue to the agenda. But Krzic stated that under state and county ordinances, public comment was over and could not be allowed. County Attorney Qadar Baig noted that any motion allowing public comment would be null and void. Walker went ahead with her motion to allow it, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Representing the developers was former Georgia governor Roy Barnes of the Barnes Law Group, and during discussion Walker asked Barnes where the nearest travel center similar to what QT wants to build is located. He stated the closest one with the same design is in Texas.

Barnes said that the county ordinance says diesel sales cannot be the majority purchase and that at the travel center they are estimating only 16% of fuel sales will be for tractor-trailers. He added that the county also says there cannot be overnight parking or showers or a restaurant, and that their travel center does not have any of those features, therefore their travel center should not be denied.

Krzic responded that it is her staff’s job to look at the intent of the ordinance. She said having separate islands and canopies for the tractor-trailers and regular vehicles puts the facility in the design of a truck stop.

Board member Dan Hammons said their purpose was to determine if Krzic made an error when she denied the permit. He said the plan to have parking, scales, and separate fueling islands makes it clear the travel center would be a truck stop.

Walker stated that the current ordinance needs a clearer definition of what a truck stop is, but said the board has to make its decision based on the evidence they currently have.

Both Harbin and board member Deborah Wilson said they had studied the issue from both sides and thanked both staff and the developers for providing the information they needed to make their decision.

Hammons then made a motion to affirm the decision by Krzic to deny the land disturbance permit. Walker seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved, with the majority of the audience applauding the decision.

Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.