Proposed Monteagle Truck Stop: RBT Answers Questions

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At a March 15 special called meeting of the Monteagle City Council, investor RBT Enterprises addressed residents’ questions about the Petro truck stop proposed for the I-24 exit 135.

Asked about Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation (TDEC) permitting, RBT partner Brian Graber said the project had TDEC permits on both the property acquired in March 2020 and the property owned by RBT partner Rodney Kilgore. “TDEC standards are more stringent than Phase 1,” Graber insisted.

City engineer Travis Wilson said he had reviewed a summary of the Phase 1 study required, as is typical, by RBT’s lending institution. Wilson said the study showed no wells, but revealed a wetlands. The site plan shows RBT will maintain a buffer zone around the wetlands. “The state approved the construction plans as submitted,” Wilson said. The Phase 1 summary will be available for public viewing at city hall.

Graber said the plans also called for retention pond and residential buffer zones. The nearest residence would be 130 feet away.

Asked about the truck stop’s impact on the community, Graber said, “The trucks are already here.” The extant Pilot truck stop at exit 135 accommodates 88 trucks, and an aerial view of the exit shows 35-40 trucks parked in nearby lots, Graber said. He noted residences were closer to the Pilot than they would be to the proposed Petro.

Traffic study consultant Steve Meyer said interstate cueing was not expected. Meyer anticipated “more volume than there is now” at exit 135, especially in the summer, but said there “is a lot of capacity both at the interchange and at the entrance and exit to the Petro.” Meyer performed his traffic study counts on Feb. 19. A resident commented Friday was not a high traffic-volume day. Asked about the COVID-19 pandemic impact on traffic, Meyer said, the Tennessee Department of Transportation determined traffic volume to be 70 percent of pre-pandemic traffic flow.

Meyer did not analyze Monteagle exit 134 and saw no reason for truck traffic to use that exit and disrupt local traffic in the downtown corridor.

In response to a resident’s concerns about trucks traveling through downtown because the truck stop was full, Kilgore said the site plan provided ample room for trucks to turn around. Graber pointed out allowing for turning room was one of the reasons the project changed it plans from accommodating 140 trucks to accommodating 117.

Dean Reichenbach, with 35 years’ experience building truck stops for Petro, responded to a question about pollution from idling trucks. Reichenbach said today most trucks were equipped with DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) technology to reduce harmful effects of emissions. Reichenbach also addressed concerns about spills. He said monitoring technology would detect any “product release” in three and half to four minutes.

Responding to a question about stormwater and run off, paving contractor Andrew Smith said the site plan called for rainwater collection in storm water drains. He also pointed out the paving product to be used contained no steel so was not as corrosive, was reflective so not as hot in the summer, showed no puddling, and required virtually zero maintenance. Smith also said he did not foresee construction requiring any blasting.

A resident asked about possible damage to his water well. Technical difficulties in the Zoom format presentation followed. Graber advised the resident to contact him for information.

Asked about possible decrease in neighboring property values, Graber recommended residents consult Zillow.

Graber said the truck stop would include five restaurants, two family owned. He anticipated payroll would exceed $90,000 per month and Monteagle would realize $135,000 in tax revenue in the first year. Graber stressed this would be revenue generated by travelers who did not consume area resources.

Kilgore noted a 20-foot fence would contain the project, at a cost of $500,000 to the developers.

Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman said the plans differed from what RBT initially submitted, and the council had not yet had an opportunity to review them. She concurred with utility manager John Condra that Monteagle had sufficient water for the project. Since the 2007 drought, Tracy City raised its dam increasing water supply, and interconnectivity now exists between the plateau water utilities. Rodman insisted sewer capacity questions could not be answered until completion of the study currently underway. The council expects to have preliminary results by the March 29 public meeting when the council will vote on the planning commissions’ recommendation to rezone to commercial a portion of the proposed Petro tract, which does not have the correct zoning.

Part of the 20-acre site is owned by Kilgore personally and the remaining 13-14 acres is owned by RBT Enterprises. Graber said he believed, at the time of purchase, all the property RBT acquired was zoned commercial. Inadequate meeting notice resulted in the zoning being invalid for approximately 6 and a half acres of the tract.

Asked if the project would continue if the council did not approve the rezoning, Graber said, “We would have never bought residential property.”