Racetrac wants to build a new convenience store and gas pumps on the northeast corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Watson Road to serve Bloomingdale's westbound traffic.
However, county planners say the site is too close to residential areas.
The proposal is now in the hands of the Hillsborough County zoning hearing master who will make a recommendation to the Hillsborough County Commission. The commission will decide if Racetrac's proposal merits approval.
Professional planner Michael Horner presented the proposal for the 2-acre parcel that is currently home to the Brandon Garden Center. The parcel was rezoned in 2010 for 36 townhomes and 10,300 square feet of specialty retail including a 5,000-square-foot bank and office space. Racetrac wants to build a 5,928-square-foot convenience store.
"There is no retail market with fuel pumps on the north side of Bloomingdale between U.S. 301 and Bell Shoals Road," Horner told zoning hearing master Steve Luce. "We are proposing a retail store on the north side to capture the westbound traffic."
Michael Raysor of Raysor Transportation Consulting noted that 41,000 cars travel Bloomingdale Avenue each day. However, if westbound motorists need to stop for gas, they have to turn left to access one of the gas stations on the south side of Bloomingdale.
"This proposal would minimize having to make left turns for these motorists and minimize safety implications," he said.
Meghan Sitz, representing Racetrac, noted that this facility would be constructed as a neighborhood market including outdoor seating and hardwood floors.
"We offer frozen yogurt, a very nice bistro, fresh salad, fresh fruit, fresh bread," she said. "These are much more like items that you would find at your neighborhood market as opposed to your standard convenience store."
She added that Racetrac will install LED lights to prevent light from spilling over onto abutting property. In addition, the landscaping plan exceeds county codes, she said. She said the facility would bring 35 jobs to the area and represents a $5.5 million local investment.
"I don’t understand why the recommendation is inconsistent," she told Luce. "It’s shocking because we’ve received such a positive response from the community."
Emily Murphy, co-manager of the Racetrac on Duncan Road and Bloomingdale Avenue, has begun a petition drive and currently has 199 signatures of residents who want the new Racetrac.
However, county planner Isabelle Albert said the staff's objections are based on the fact that the Racetrac facility would be a 24-hour operation.
"A convenience store is still too intensive for the site and would not be compatible with the surroundings," she said.