On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Highland Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow the 5,800-square-foot commercial building at the southwest corner of Palm Avenue and Fifth Street to be redeveloped as a gas station and convenience store.
The property, owned by Ghulam Sarwar, is currently two vacant retail stores on a 0.48-acre parcel approved for a convenience store and a restaurant. The building was constructed in 1991 and has been leased to several businesses in the past, none of which had longterm success at the location. Sarwar believes redeveloping the property from retail to a fuel station will help make it more successful in keeping a tenant.
“I want to applaud the applicant in their redevelopment of this property,” Commissioner Chandra Thomas said. “Redevelopment is significantly harder than development, and it’s always good to be able to use a location that’s not being used or utilized to its fullest potential.”
The application is to repurpose the property by remodeling the building interiors, installing fuel tanks, fuel pumps, new signage and a canopy over the fuel pumps. The building’s exterior will not be remodeled. As presented, the conversion would add eight pumps and reduce parking spaces from to 26 to 10. The owner does not intend to sell alcohol and will not be applying for an alcohol license, according to the staff report.
After reviewing the application, the commission raised numerous questions about traffic circulation, parking, the possible inclusion of an electric vehicle station and water quality issues regarding the station’s system for capturing and filtering rainwater contaminated by hydrocarbon runoff.
After expressing their concerns to the applicant, the commission voted to approve the conditional use of the property as a fuel station without approving the intensity of use nor the provided conceptual designs. Intensity of use and final designs will be revisited by the applicant and city staff to address the commission’s concerns and will be brought to the commission for approval during the design review application process at a later date, likely after the owner lines up a tenant for the property.
Commissioner Randall Hamerly was concerned about parking and traffic circulation in the tight property and suggested designing the station with fewer fuel pumps.
Commissioner Jarrod Miller was concerned about the use of underground infiltration system for catching contaminated runoff as well as the property’s proximity to two areas that have already experienced ground contamination ⎯ a nearby fuel station and San Bernardino airport. Miller voted against approving the CUP.