The Fairfax Town Council tonight will wade into some controversial waters as it starts deliberating a land-use issue that some say could reshape the city’s identity in a way they don't want to see.
The 7 p.m. hearing on a proposed Chevron station in the heart of the town’s business district is expected to draw big crowds, evoke strong emotions, and drag on well into the night.
“It’s going to be a good one to watch,” Councilwoman Barbara Coler said.
But it’s unlikely that anyone will leave the meeting with much better idea of how it’s all going to end than when they walked in.
That’s according to Councilman David Weinsoff, who told Patch on Tuesday that he believes the council will want time to digest the volume of information that will be presented by the town staff and the applicant, along with a swell of input from community that includes representatives of an organized an organized opposition.
“That’s a lot of information to digest in one fell swoop,”
Weinsoff said, noting a vote on the proposal on the council’s next scheduled meeting on Jan. 8 seemed like a more realistic scenario.
The proposal has the blessings of the Department of Planning and Building Services, which issued a staff report last month recommending the council approve a conditional use permit for the 2001 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard parcel as a gas station and convenience store.
Prospective owner Arash Salkhi wants to refurbish the 2001 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard parcel (between Claus Drive and Azalea Avenue) where Fairfax Gas operated until about two years ago as a Chevron station with an adjacent ExtraMile convenience store.
PM Design Group’s Ron Jacobs, who submitted an application for a conditional use permit on Salkhi’s behalf, did not respond to a message left at his Santa Rosa office.
A group calling itself “No Chevron in Fairfax” has launched a petition that aims to sway the council to reject the commission’s recommendations.
They say the two locally owned gas stations Fairfax already has are enough, and that approving a Chevron station would open the floodgates to Starbucks and Chipotle and other chain businesses driving out locals.
Additionally, they say it would create traffic hazards, increase pollution, “tarnish” the town’s charm, and that food wrappers and beer cans sold at the ExtraMile store would “sabotage” the town’s zero waste goals for 2020.
The parcel has seen no other use than as a fuel station since the days V8’s roared down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard when it opened as a Durrell’s Chevron station in1951.
Weinsoff said the parcel could be returned to “background levels” that would allow it to be repurposed, but he acknowledged that would involve compliance with hazardous waste and cleanup laws that could involve underground tank leakage.
“You can clean anything up,” he said. “It’s just a question of money.”
Weinsoff insists that he hasn’t made a decision on how he’ll vote on the proposal, but he acknowledged that filling the vacant lot is a priority.
He said that there is support for the Chevron among his constituents who haven’t been as vocal about the issue as those on the other side.
No councilmember has yet taken a public stance on this issue.
“One is always looking for ways to be the bills and sales tax is in the mix in that,” Weinsoff said. “Do I want it to be an empty, unused plot of land, no, but the conversation has to be had in full with the community.”
Coler was equally adamant that she hasn’t decided how she’ll vote on the measure, but she sounded as if she’s leaning against it in an interview with Patch on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of people against it who are voicing their concerns to us, but the point of the hearing is to really evaluate the information to make a decision,” she said.
Coler questioned whether the planning commissioners did their due diligence in their evaluation of the proposal.
Coler is a former Fairfax planning commissioner.
“Maybe I missed something in reading the minutes but I’m surprised that there wasn’t much a more vociferous discussion among the planning commissioners about the pros and cons,” she said.
“I’m seeing quite a few cons but I’m but I’m withholding my position until I hear all sides at the public hearing.”