Monroe County commissioners voted 3-2 to turn down a permit allowing a new gas station in High Falls after a lengthy debate on Tuesday.
Vinodkumar Patel was asking for a conditional use permit allowing him to build a 4,000-square-foot convenience store with gas pumps on a triangle-shaped lot at the corner of High Falls Road and Buck Creek Road. The conditional use is required even though it’s zoned commercial because the proposed gas station is within 300 feet of agricultural-zoned property. William and Deborah Marshall are the property owners.
High Falls residents spoke out once again in opposition before the vote.
Leah Gilbert of High Falls told commissioners she came to High Falls from Orlando to live with her mom six years ago and the beautiful quiet scenery has improved her quality of life.
“It’s a crying shame if they put in another gas station in High Falls,” said Gilbert. “It’s supposed to be a park for people to enjoy nature and it breaks my heart to see that happen.”
Al Crusan of High Falls urged commissioners to pay attention to what the people want for a change. Sheriff Brad Freeman even weighed in, saying that the store would bring more crime and traffic to High Falls.
“With a gas station,” said Freeman, “you’re gonna get more crime. That’s just a fact. And you’re gonna have some wrecks.”
Commissioner George Emami, whose district includes High Falls, said his big concern is that engineers tell them the road isn’t able to handle more traffic. And he said he wanted to listen to his constituents.
“We work for them,” said Emami. “You damn sure know where my vote’s going.”
Commissioner Eddie Rowland, however, said the property is zoned commercial and that commissioners should respect the property owner’s right to do what he wants with his property within the zoning classification. That prompted commissioner John Ambrose to complain that Rowland voted to put a Dollar General in his district. Commissioners Tapley, Emami and Ambrose voted to turn down the permit, while commissioner Lamarcus Davis and Rowland voted to allow it.