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New Exxon struggling with development

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Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 4:30 am

HARKER HEIGHTS — After 19 months of concept plan redesigns and negotiations with the city, Gateway Food Mart obtained a permit in June to build a gas station, convenience store and laundromat on Farm-to-Market 2410 between Creek Drive and Mountain Lion Road, said manager Arif Maredia.

Before McDowell Enterprises started construction in late June, city officials periodically and unexpectedly voiced new concerns about traffic safety and building site requirements during the approval process, he said.

However, city officials tell a slightly different story.

Along with internal issues and owner resistance to city suggestions, the absence of blanket concept plans for city segments caused the delay, said Planning and Development Director Fred Morris.

“At this time, we don’t have a set way to tell people that your project won’t work, the project doesn’t fit the site, or you’re not using the site optimum,” Morris said. “My hope will be when we adopt our Development Overlay District No. 1 design standards and guidelines, we’ll be better able to help develop property to its best potential.”

While the Texas Department of Transportation denied the company driveway access to FM 2410, a state road, the company plans to pave two driveways to Creek Drive and Mountain Lion Road, after paying $8,000 for a city-ordered traffic analysis, Maredia said.

“They didn’t want to give us Mountain Lion,” he said. “I told them if there’s only one driveway on Creek street, there’s going to be more accidents.”

A city zoning ordinance requires a 25-foot front setback for the business, and planners wanted to ensure the driveway spilled out far enough from FM 2410 to keep drivers and pedestrians safe, Morris said. “It was difficult to give him access to the side streets. He had to push them all the way back.”

Managers first planned to include a fast-food drive-thru on the side of the building, but that would’ve required one parking space for every 75 square feet, rather than the Heights retail norm of one for every 300, Morris said.

“He was trying to cram a big project on a small piece of property,” Morris said. “We prepared a completely different consideration for the land use. It showed them it would work if they used it a different way, but they didn’t want it.”

Maredia manages three Gateway Food Marts in Killeen, and said he hopes his company will expand to more Harker Heights locations in the future. The FM 2410 location will open in November.

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