The Elk Grove Planning Commission on Sept. 1 voted 3-2 to approve a project featuring a gas  station on property along East Stockton Boulevard, just south of Elk Grove Boulevard.

With that approval, the applicant, Reliance Gas Investments Inc., of Tracy, can move forward with the project, which includes the construction of a new, eight-pump auto fueling station with a 3,050-square-foot convenience store, and an attached 2,000-square-foot quick-serve restaurant with a drive-thru feature.

It will also have a stand-alone, 2,020-square-foot Starbucks with a drive-thru. The land is owned by Elk Grove III Partners, LLC.

This currently vacant property was previously used by the California Department of Transportation as a maintenance yard and a park-and-ride lot. Surrounding this site are an existing Jack in the Box restaurant, a car wash, a Dutch Bros. drive-thru coffee shop, the Masonic Cemetery, and a shopping center.

The commission’s approval of this project includes authorization for a conditional-use permit to allow the fueling station in the shopping center zone.

Access to the project’s future features will be through a shared, private driveway off of East Stockton Boulevard. People currently use the driveway to get to Dutch Bros. Coffee, Jack in the Box, and BlueWave Express Car Wash.

The project also includes plans for a two-way driveway between Starbucks and the convenience store, and an exit-only, right-turn driveway on the eastern side of the property.

A city staff report notes that the colors and materials used for the new structures will complement the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Drew Mickel, who represents the property’s owner, mentioned that a countless number of hours were spent reviewing the site design and analyzing both on- and off-site traffic elements.

“I think that it is important to note that cuing, circulation and traffic as a whole has been the focus of three different traffic analyses tied to this project since 2020,” he said. “The project really serves a large contingent of commuters already headed for the Highway 99 onramp. However, making sure traffic worked optimally has been a major push by staff.”

He added that in addition to a reconfiguration of the site’s design and entrance, a signal timing program will be completed to address the flow of that area’s traffic.

During the public comment period of this hearing, local resident Bret Bartholomew spoke in opposition of the project, due to his concerns regarding traffic.

“I’m concerned about the increased traffic based off of the increased businesses with three drive-thru locations and there being one entrance for a Dutch Bros., Starbucks and (a quick-service) restaurant to the south,” he said.

Bartholomew stressed his concern regarding the maximum number of cars that will arrive during the peak business hours for the site.

He mentioned that there is already a traffic issue with cars backing up at the right turn onto East Stockton Boulevard from Elk Grove Boulevard, toward the Highway 99 onramp.

Commissioner Suman Singha also shared his concerns with traffic.

“Given the current traffic of people going in and out of Dutch Bros. causes enough of a challenge, especially  if you’re trying to get onto north(bound Highway) 99,” he said. “So, you have to play dodgeball with a car coming out, because everybody’s trying to get in.

“The reality is trying to get past Dutch Bros. right now is a challenge for the average motorist. Why would adding any more traffic there simplify or make it easier to get through that traffic?”

Mickel responded to Singha’s comment.

“In terms of the traffic out on East Stockton (Boulevard), it’s a large majority of it will be pass-by traffic coming in,” he said.

“In terms of exiting, the one thing that has been identified since 2008, the one thing that needs to be done, and has been readdressed at council in 2017 was the signal timing, and the signal timing, I believe, will address your concern. And that is the exiting of the site, because you need a period of time where cars can exit the site and not have those conflicts.”

Vice Chair Sandra Poole expressed her concerns regarding the number of cars that would be exiting the property, and she noted that she would have liked to be presented with statistics on possible safety issues in the area, such as the number of traffic accidents.

“There’s information we just don’t have that would have been nice for us to have as we contemplate this issue,” she said.

After completing their discussion regarding traffic in this area, the commission ultimately voted, 3-2, in favor of the project’s approval. Singh and Poole voted in opposition of the project.

Although Commissioner George Murphey, at one point, said that he was “on the fence” about whether to approve the project, he eventually voted in favor of the project.

“I’m going to say that very reluctantly, very reluctantly, only because of just where it is, I can’t blame the applicant for that,” he said. “I can’t do that, but it’s just the spot.

“Is it a bad spot? I think whatever you put there is not going to work to the degree we would like to see it. I really don’t. So, I am going to make my decision, and I am going to throw my support behind the project.”