The Villa Rica City Council gave a green light Tuesday for a truck stop to be built at the intersection of State Route 101 and Industrial Court West.
But three city council members — and a number of citizens — had concerns about how the plaza would be managed, the number of parking spaces on-site, and the amount of traffic the truck stop would generate.
And the council’s vote does not mean the truck plaza ultimately will be built, as the city has set a number of conditions for the site.
Viral Patel of Marietta had asked for a special use permit to construct a truck stop with a convenience center and parking area for trucks on 10 acres of vacant land. Under the city’s brand-new zoning ordinance, all truckstop proposals require a special use permit from the council.
The site has been vacant for 20 years, according to application documents, and Patel estimates that construction of the facility would bring in between $4-5 million to the local economy.
The plan has had both supporters and opponents from those who live near the site. During a public hearing that preceded the vote, three residents said the truck stop would create public safety issues and more traffic.
But Lester Harmon, a former Temple mayor, supported the proposal. He told the council how truck plazas off Interstate-20 had brought financial benefits to Temple 20 years ago. Later, Ward 2 Council Member Matthew Momtahan — a firm opponent of the plan — said that the restaurant at the Temple plaza is now closed and half of its parking lot is used by the homeless.
He also said the Villa Rica would not collect additional tax revenue if the truck stop is built.
“What the applicant is telling us that we’re not going to be collecting any revenue because the traffic is already coming,” he said. “We’re not collecting any additional revenue or taxes. More than that, I am not in favor of selling the soul of my community for some tax revenue.”
Momtahan made a motion to deny the application, but that motion failed due to a lack of a second.
City staff had recommended approval of the plan with four conditions, such as limiting RV parking to no more than one-night overnight stay, requiring a traffic study for the intersection, and providing on-site parking and suspending the permit if a serious violation is committed.
Another motion to approve the truck stop was made by Ward 5 Council Member Danny Carter, which was seconded by Ward 3 Councilman Leslie McPherson.
In the discussion that preceded that motion, Momtahan — although he had announced his opposition — helped council members add more conditions to the permit, including a lighting plan and hiring security.
The lighting plan would have to be submitted to the city’s community development director and police chief.
Momtahan asked if security would be hired to enforce the conditions within the application, but a representative for the applicant said a full-time security guard might not be necessary.
The application said the development will be designed to accommodate parking for between 80 and 100 semi-trucks with trailers. But Momtahan asked if the applicant would agree to limit the parking to 40 spaces, and the representative said he does not expect 100 parking spaces to be developed.
Councilman McPherson said she and another city council member spoke with local truck drivers to get their feedback on traffic.
“The fact is, trucks are required, and we have to have trucks,” she said. “Trucks have to have truck stops. The big concern is traffic for a lot of people, and we want to make sure that it is clean, and we don’t have illegal activity going on there.”
Carter’s motion to approve the special use permit passed by a vote of 3-2, with Momtahan and Ward 1 Councilman Shirley Marchman opposing. Ward 4 Councilman Michael Young approved the application alongside Carter and McPherson.
The city council can revoke the application if there are any substantial violations.
Designing the plaza and completing an engineering study is expected to take up to eight months to complete and construction could take up to a year.