Parish planning board OKs rezoning to allow new Raceway development

Published 10:51 am Friday, March 31, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — The proposed development of a portion of 33 acres across Carter Street from the Vidalia Walmart required rezoning and approval from the Vidalia Planning and Zoning Board on Thursday.

Three acres of the parcel, which is owned by local engineer Bryant Hammett and partners, is the proposed location for a new Raceway fueling station and convenience store.

However, because of development plans made during former Mayor Hyram Copeland’s administration, the zoning of the property had to be changed to allow it to be used for a commercial gas station.

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The area surrounding the 33 acres is zoned as “community commercial,” while the plot is zoned differently as “commercial mixed-use.”

The original plan was to build a “Square on Carter” that would have included boutique-like shops with upper-level apartments. The field remains empty today.

“This type of business would not have been allowed in that particular area,” Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft explained. “But what this zoning change would be is the same as all of the businesses up and down Carter Street.”

John Thompson, project manager with Duplantis Design Group, presented the plans for the gas station to the planning commission. The station would have a 3,000-square-foot building and eight fuel dispensers in front of the building with a pumping station on each side and three dispensers for 18-wheelers at the back of the building.

The plan is to have an access road at the traffic light by Walmart, turning that three-way light into a four-way light with Department of Transportation approval. A second access road would also be built to the Raceway for emergency use, Thompson explained.

It would also open up an entry point for other developments in that plot, Craft said.

“I hope that the planning commission would consider granting this because this is going to be, I think, a stepping stone for a good development in that whole area,” he said. “It’s going to open the door for more development, so I think it’s a good thing for our town.”

The planning commission did give the proposal unanimous approval along with all other requests the developer made that would subsequently require an ordinance change approved by the Board of Aldermen. This includes deleting ordinance sections and 7.59.2e, which prohibits fuel pumps and canopies in front of the property and limits the color of electronic lighting to only amber or white. The board also voted to amend section 7.5.2, which limits the size of commercial signs to 32 square feet.

Thompson said the standard size of most gas stations is between 150 and 200 square feet in order to display the station’s name with the price of gasoline and diesel fuel.

The Vidalia Board of Aldermen is expected to introduce these changes at its April meeting before voting on them in May.