Monteagle Approves Truck Stop Site Plan with Conditions

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 6 Monteagle Planning Commission meeting, attorney Dudley West said the commission should not approve the site plan for the proposed Petro Travel Center without taking steps to mitigate noise, exhaust, light pollution, and, most importantly, pollution of Laurel Lake, Monteagle’s primary water supply. After lengthy discussion, the commission approved the site plan conditionally, requiring more dense landscaping and measures to reduce light pollution. The commission determined the storm water detention ponds called for in the plan were an adequate method of treatment for runoff entering the city’s water supply.

West and attorney Doug Berry represent neighbors living within 200 feet of the proposed construction, some as close as 50 feet. “Our clients houses are closer to the proposed truck stop than at any other Petro truck stop in Tennessee,” West said. “Property values are projected to decrease 47 percent.” West cited Monteagle ordinances stating, “additional screening may be required,” lighting should be “arranged to minimize glare and reflection on adjacent residents’ property,” and that the site plan should include “plans for collecting storm water and methods of treatment.” West stressed “the applicant [for site plan approval] has the burden of proof to show compliance” with zoning ordinances and, “the site plan does not do that.”

Engineer Jim Waller, who designed the Miami International Airport, offered detailed documentation of the storm water runoff. “During a 10-year mean interval rainstorm, over one and three-quarter million gallons of water, untreated, would flush the [truck stop] property into Monteagle’s primary water supply,” Waller said. “Approval of the site plan is a travesty and a risk to the health and well-being of the people in the city of Monteagle.”

Jamie Sain, engineer for Petro developers RBT Enterprises, said the three detention ponds on the property provided storm water treatment.

“The ponds are not retention, but detaining,” Waller countered. “The water comes in and goes out.”

Sain said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation sanctioned settling in detention ponds as one treatment method. Commissioner MaryJane Flowers asked if more extensive treatment could be done in the detention ponds such as pond liners and filtration. Sain said alternative treatment methods were “very expensive.” Waller’s documentation proposed oil and water separation treatment methods. Neighboring residents commented they intended to fill in the drainage ditch on their property currently routing the water to Laurel Lake.

Highlighting the site plan features, Sain said it called for an 8-foot masonry screening wall with brick on the residential side, a 30-foot buffer surrounding the wetlands, and three entrances to minimize traffic congestion.

Town planner Garret Haynes recommended approval of the site plan, saying it met the requirements of Monteagle’s zoning ordinances. Haynes noted the ordinance did not require showing the lighting plan and that additional landscaping could be required.

Commissioner Richard Black suggested deferring approval until the site plan satisfied lighting, landscaping, and method of storm water treatment concerns.

“There is an argument the detention pond system and wetland are a method of treatment,” city attorney Sam Elliot said. “It’s up to you to determine if [the plan shows] an appropriate method of treatment.” After further review, the commission concluded the plan adequately described the method of treatment and unanimously approved the plan with the following conditions: increased screening with evergreens staggered in two rows, 8-10 feet in height and 8 feet apart; lighting in accordance with the IDA-IES model lighting ordinance; and extending the 30-foot wetlands buffer to continue across Sampley Street. Commissioner Mayor Marilyn Rodman was absent.

Following the vote, neighboring resident Will Foehring commented, “We’ll see you in court.”