The city of Highland is researching the possibility of placing a moratorium on the construction of new gas stations within the city as well as possibly updating the city’s code for fuel stations.
The idea was brought before the city council and city staff for discussion at the Aug. 10 city council meeting at the request of Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon and Mayor Penny Lilburn.
According to McCallon, he made the suggestion after noticing that numerous new gas stations had been approved in the past couple of months. He is concerned that the city might become proliferated with fuel stations, especially in light of growing use of electric vehicles and state legislation that will effectively ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035.
There are currently 12 gas stations (one not yet opened) within city limits, according to a city staff report. In the past year, three applications for construction of new stations have been approved and one application for the expansion of an existing station. A fourth fueling station with quick-service restaurant and convenience store is in the pre-application stage.
City staff informed the board that it will investigation the possibility of implementing a moratorium on the city’s approval of building permits and land use entitlements for fueling stations while the staff analyzes the issue and drafts city code updates for fuel stations. The moratorium could be voted on by the city council at a later meeting.
A temporary moratorium order can be used to halt fuel station approvals for a period of 45 days plus an extension, according to Community Development Director Lawrence Mainez.
During discussion, Councilman John Timmer voiced a reluctance to approve a moratorium that would bind the property rights of business owners and landowners within the city, especially those who have already purchased properties zoned for use as fuel stations.
“We have people who own land that’s designated or approved for certain uses -- gas station, restaurant or whatever it is. They’ve invested in purchasing the land, putting a plan together, applying for permits. I’m concerned for us to change the rules in the middle of the game,” Timmer said.
“I believe if someone owns the land and they meet all the requirements the city has in place we can’t changes the rules in the middle,” Timmer added. “Maybe there is some merit in looking at what these fuel stations should look like in the future, but we need to allow certain folks in the system to continue without the city saying, ‘We won’t issue anymore permits.’ I think they have an inherent right to use their property as the city said they could.”