P&Z OKs Smith's Fueling Station

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Downtown: Proposed design should improve aesthetics and safety

By Arin McKenna

Last Wednesday, the Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a plan from Smith’s Food and Drug Center, Inc., to build a new fuel station at the corner of Trinity and Knecht, the site now occupied by a Shamrock gas station.

Smith’s is leasing the site from Polk JT Properties Ltd., with an option to purchase the property.
The new fuel center will be across the street from the recently approved Trinity Site development, where the new Smith’s 110,000-square-foot Marketplace is planned. However, Smith’s Manager John Roberts said the decision to build the fuel station was independent of the new center.

Smith’s plans to remove everything and level the site to build a stucco and stacked stone 10-pump gas station with a central island kiosk. The station will feature new cut-off lighting which meets county requirements and the New Mexico Dark Skies Protection Act.

Existing underground tanks will be replaced with alarmed tanks that shut down automatically if a leak is detected.

The four existing driveways will be consolidated down to two and placed further away from the intersection for safety.

“We’ll also put in some nice landscaping on the site,” Roberts said. The blueprint shows approximately 3,165 square feet of landscaping around the perimeter, or 12 percent of the property. The code requires five percent landscaping.

The staff report reads, “The structure will meet the Downtown Design Standards for its colors and materials and will help to maintain and improve downtown appearance and infrastructure.”

One item in Smith’s proposal received qualified approval. Smith’s requested a waiver on the signage limitations to build a 136-foot pylon-style sign on the corner. Signage is governed by Downtown District Neighborhood Center Overlay (DT-NCO) zone requirements, which permit up to 50 square feet of signage.

The waiver was approved for 15 percent less than requested. The staff report said, “It should be noted that Smith’s may be decreasing the total sign area from what is presently on the property, and they will be removing a legal non-conforming pole sign.”

The kiosk will be manned from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Pumps will be on 24 hours a day, accessible by credit card after 11 p.m.

“I can’t make any guarantees, but we plan to have the cheapest gas in town, at least one cent cheaper than the other stations,” Roberts said. Smith’s reward card holders will receive a discounted price.

“I think this will be an improvement on the site and a nice addition,” said Community Development Department Senior Planner Nancy Cerutti.

Smith’s is proceeding with its final blueprints, after which it will submit an application for a building permit. Once the permit is approved, Roberts said they anticipate no more than 90 days for construction.