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Corinth votes against Buc-ee’s

Profile image for By Christian McPhate / Staff Writer
By Christian McPhate / Staff Writer

CORINTH — A proposed Buc-ee’s travel center, which was to be a retail behemoth with 96 gas pumps, will not be built after all.

The City Council voted 3-2 early Friday against giving Buc-ee’s exceptions to zoning requirements, saying the complex’s construction plan does not meet needs laid out in the city’s comprehensive plan. Developers asked for too many concessions on zoning rules, council member Lowell Johnson said.

“It’s a give-and-take situation,” Johnson said. “But unfortunately they wanted to take more than they wanted to give.”

Buc-ee’s had requested special amendments to lighting, signage and landscaping requirements. Of the 16 requirements laid out in the comprehensive plan, Buc-ee’s met only two. Its proposal was to build a store at the corner of southbound Interstate 35E and Corinth Parkway.

In 2009, the city decided to create a comprehensive plan for how residents and city leaders envisioned the future of Corinth. A committee of council members and residents was formed, said council member Mike Amason. The committee laid out a plan for how to build, zone and section off the city for residential and commercial purposes.

The plan was approved by the City Council in 2010.

“It is our guidebook as to how we envision the city working and operating,” Amason said. “If there is a zoning request change, essentially what we need to do is look at our plan, see if it complies with the plan and ask, ‘Does this meet the vision we have for the city?’ If it doesn’t, then it should be a fairly easy decision.”

Thursday night’s public hearing featured more than three hours of public comments by residents, many of whom were against the travel center. It was to be located about 400 feet from a residential community.

Critics said the development would increase traffic and be too brightly lighted to put next to a neighborhood. Other critics said the Buc-ee’s request for 15 years of sales tax rebates was not reasonable for a chain with expected annual sales of more than $15 million.

Arch Aplin III, Buc-ee’s owner, wanted the city to return 1 percent of sales tax proceeds to his company. He has made similar requests of cities such as Temple.

The council in that Central Texas town allowed Buc-ee’s to keep 75 percent of the travel center’s sales tax revenue for 10 years, according to a report in the Temple Daily Telegram.

Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere said Buc-ee’s request for a sales tax rebate meant that it would not be bringing Corinth as much tax revenue as he had hoped.

“If there were no incentives, then Buc-ee’s would be the phenomenal performer that people expected it to be,” Ruggiere said. “But 15 years is a very long time to have an average performer that makes such a large impact on the environment of our community.”

After the council voted, Ruggiere presented a slideshow comparing the tax revenue Buc-ee’s would produce with 18 acres of retail store space with four other recently approved projects on a total of 17 acres. The other four businesses produced more revenue for the city, according to his slideshow.

“It [Buc-ee’s] wasn’t a stellar performer that it had been reported to be,” he said.

But it wasn’t an easy decision for the City Council. Joe Harrison and Randi Gibbons voted to approve the Buc-ee’s project.

“I felt that the revenue is needed here,” Harrison said. “And I thought that this was a way to generate revenue for the city.”

Harrison said there are things that the city needs such as police and fire stations. He and Gibbons said Buc-ee’s could have helped fund these projects.

“There is no doubt that something will come,” Johnson said, “and I’ll bet you that piece of property is already being circled by a bunch of developers.”

CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878.