Fate of Shell station delayed once again

ENCINITAS — Encinitas Planning Commissioners have put off a decision on a proposed reconstruction of a Shell gas station off of the Leucadia Boulevard off ramp to Interstate 5 for a second time in two months.

The commission voted 3-1 on Dec. 17 to continue the discussion to its next meeting after city staff said it had received new information from the developer — including a new acoustic analysis — that staff had yet to analyze.

Previously in November, the commission tabled the discussion without taking public comment because its meeting was set to stretch beyond midnight. The decision riled up residents in attendance that had waited for hours to voice their concerns to the panel.

Those residents showed up Dec. 17, and largely expressed opposition to the project, which calls for the demolition of the current gas station and auto mechanic shop on the corner of Leucadia Boulevard and Orpheus Avenue, and the construction of a new gas station, mini-mart and self service car wash.

The property owner touted the project as an upgrade to the existing facility, and said that the new look would be a nice gateway to the Leucadia community from I-5.

Four residents spoke at the meeting, all of whom expressed concerns that the proposed gas station-mart-car wash combination was too close to a residential neighborhood, and traffic and noise created from it would spill into the community.

“This area is completely devoid of sidewalks and streetlights, and this is the look and feel that residents here value highly,” said Susan Turney. “This project is out of proportion to the immediate neighborhood and would definitely intrude into the existing residential community.”

Turney, who spoke for 10 minutes, said neighbors were opposed for three primary reasons: the noise, the traffic and the proposed alcohol sales in the mini mart, which she said was not needed in the neighborhood.

Representatives of S&L Oil, Inc., the property owner and developer, said they had made several changes to the proposal to allay some of the neighbors’ concerns, including lowering the volume and speed of the noisy car-wash dryers to lessen the impact on the neighborhood. The city’s planning staff had yet to review the proposed changes, which is what prompted them to ask for a continuance.

Even with the proposed changes, neighbors still were skeptical about the project.

“We have had the city promise us a lot of things up front. They don’t pan out later,” Turney said.

The project has also polarized the commission. On one side, Tasha Boerner Horvath, who voted against the continuance, sided with residents and said she was concerned about how close the project is to the neighborhood, and whether there was a proven need for a car wash in that specific area, which the city requires as a condition for approval.

Commissioner Greg Drakos, however, said he believed that the noise generated by the car wash would largely miss the neighborhood because of its orientation toward the freeway, and that the applicant’s proposed changes show a good-faith effort to work with the residents.

Drakos said he believed the proposed changes would be a welcome upgrade to the current gas station and auto shop.

“I find it difficult that a smog station and auto body shop would be preferable uses to a coin car wash,” Drakos said.

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