By Josh Jordan
A new Thornton’s will not be coming to the Hilltop if the Greater Hilltop Area Commission can help it.
The proposed development was to happen at the corner of West Broad Street and Georgesville Road, the corner in front of the Hollywood Casino.
By a vote of 3-12, with one-member abstaining, the commission quickly voted down the idea citing various concerns.
“We are voting on fuel and service at the gas station only. There are no guarantees about hotels and restaurants,” said commissioner Jay McCallister. “We were told that there is no obligation to put that in there.”
McCallister is referring to comments made to the commission by Connie Klema, a local real estate attorney hired by the development group.
“We are not obligated, that is what we would like to do. That’s what we’ve been hoping for, what we’ve been marketing for,” said Klema. “But as it is currently zoned, other C-4 uses could go there.”
The proposed plan includes splitting the lot into three area which would include a Thornton’s gas station with semi-truck access and filling areas, a hotel and a restaurant. The land is currently zoned correctly for the hotel and a sit-down restaurant, but not a gas station or a restaurant with a drive-thru.
A lot zoned C-4 can house a wide variety of uses including hospitals, bars, pawn shops, supermarkets and outdoor power equipment stores. C-5 zones are much more specific for high traffic businesses such as car washes, carry-outs, gas stations and fast-food restaurants.
“Through this process, I think it is very clear that there is a high level of demand for development of this land,” said JD Groves of the commission. “If we have the high demand area, what’s to say that a development team comes in and want to put two restaurants, a hotel and some other type of entertainment on that corner. Now that possibility is intriguing.”
The only new business guaranteed to be brought in if the zoning request was approved was Thornton’s. Although the developers had expressed interest in the other businesses, nothing was shown to the commissioners at the meeting to guarantee other development.
Commissioners also expressed concern that the other two areas of the lot were being asked to be made into C-5 zones as well, so they voted on the proposal with an addition.
The commission made a motion to make the vote to only change the section of the lot to be made into the gas station into a C-5 zone.
In the end, the commission voted against the zoning change believing that the area was better served by having a different business develop on the spot.
“My concern is that the area will continue to lay fallow like it has and nothing will happen,” said commissioner Geoffrey Phillips.
Phillips voted “yes” to the development plan.
Citizens in attendance were happy with the result.
“It sucks that it didn’t happen because someone was willing to put in the work and effort into developing the westside,” said James White, a Hilltop resident. “But they aren’t the only ones, they are the only ones who stepped up right now and said hey, we are trying to do this right this second. Everyone else is like, we’re still thinking about it, we’re still working on it.”