Representatives of Town Pump will go before the Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board of Adjustment Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to seek a use variance that would allow the company to more than double the size of its existing gas station, convenience store and casino at the corner of Montana and Platinum streets.
And the company has the support of Lori Casey, director of the county’s Planning Department, who recommended conditional approval of the variance to the zoning board in a report filed ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
Town Pump’s plan would require the removal of a strip of homes and apartments that the company owns along the 500 block of South Idaho Street, on property that is currently zoned for residential uses.
In their place, Town Pump would construct a new building to house a 6,887-square-foot convenience store and a 3,500-square-foot casino. The current building that houses both a store and casino is 4,500 square feet.
Because the plan includes a casino, the company needs the zoning board to rezone the parcel for C-2 commercial use.
The company is also asking the board to waive an existing requirement that the building be set back 25 feet from Idaho Street and allow the new store and casino to be set six feet from the street.
According to Town Pump’s proposal, the gas station’s existing site along Montana Street would house new gas pumps. That parcel is already zoned for commercial use and does not require a variance.
In order for the board to approve the variances for the property along Idaho Street, it must meet two criteria, according to zoning documents. First, Town Pump must demonstrate that the property cannot secure a “reasonable return” if the variance isn’t granted. Second, the company must show that “proposed use will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood in which it is located.”
And Bill McGladdery, Town Pump’s director of corporate communications, says the company has made a concerted effort not only to minimize its negative impact on the area but also to make improvements.
“Our goal is not to inconvenience any of the neighbors with the project but to enhance the community,” McGladdery said Wednesday.
While the plan would require the displacement of the tenants in the Town Pump-owned residences on the east side of Idaho Street, McGladdery says the company has "not informed the tenants officially of any plans until we can actually identify a hard timeline to discuss with them — and of course we will give them more than ample time to relocate."
In the analysis she prepared for Thursday’s meeting, Casey credits Town Pump’s plan for being “designed to help mitigate the impacts that convenience store/casino will have on the neighboring residential property owners” by placing those commercial business on the west end of the property and facing them “towards the commercial district” on Montana Street.
The analysis also notes that the placement of the buildings will help “shield the canopy lights and vehicle headlights” from the residences on the west side of Idaho Street, and that allowing the company to place the building closer to the sidewalk than the 25 feet required will “help to maintain the character of the residential neighborhood,” where most buildings are located closer to their property lines.
Casey’s analysis notes, too, that the new site plan will improve the safety of traffic leaving and entering on Platinum Street, as the proposal includes only an entrance on that side of the property that would be located 40 feet from the Montana Street intersection.
With the proposed casino located so near a residential area, Casey's analysis notes that the plan raises concerns about “increased traffic, noise and a commercial operation that will have extended hours.”While noting that such concerns “must be addressed,” the analysis states that there is an existing casino on the site that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that Jim’s Corner Bar is located on the northeast corner of the site.
“Nonetheless,” Casey writes, “the Zoning Board of Adjustment must decide in this particular case whether moving the casino to a new location that one-half block closer (to houses) will have a level of negative impacts that should preclude it from being located in a residential zone.”
The analysis also notes that the board must consider whether the proposal includes “sufficient measures to mitigate the adverse impacts on neighbors.” As part of that consideration, the Casey states that Town Pump is working with the Historic Preservation Commission to “ensure that it (the new site) will fit in with the historic fabric of the area.”
While the proposal would increase traffic on Idaho Street, according to the analysis, this increase is designed to be minimized by the placement of the site’s Idaho Street entrance on the southwest side of the property.
Though the planning department has recommended the project for approval, it does so with numerous conditions, including requiring the company to submit a detailed landscaping plan, to agree to use only low-glare lighting directed away from adjacent residences and to not install signage on the west side of the building.
If the project gets the green light Thursday night, it will head to the county’s Historic Preservation Commission, which will have some oversight of the removal of the residences on Idaho Street.
Since the homes fall within the Butte National Historic Landmark District, Town Pump will be required first to consider alternatives to demolition, such as relocation within the landmark district. According to McGladdery, the company has plans to move two of them and put the other three up for sale.
Town Pump would also have to present certificate of appropriateness applications to the HPC for buildings it wants to relocate or demolish after listing them for sale and removal for a 90-day period.
The HPC would then vote on whether to approve the applications, deny them, or approve them with conditions. But Town Pump would have the opportunity to appeal the HPC’s decision to the county’s council of commissioners, whose decision would be final.
That means the commissioners will have the last say in the fate of the buildings along Idaho Street, but design review is one of the conditions the HPC could impose when approving the project. That would allow Town Pump to move forward, but it would also allow the HPC some input in how the expanded Town Pump site looks.
As for when work might begin, McGladdery said, “We have not established a schedule yet.”