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Wellsville residents oppose proposed truck stop on Hwy. 89/91

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Sarah Romero

WELLSVILLE—Some residents say it will kill people. Others say it will be a valuable asset to the community.

RomeroTruckPhoto72It’s been two years since Steve Kyriopoulos first filed an application for a truck stop on the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 89/91 and 400 North. Kyriopoulos is completing his newest application and will again approach the planning and zoning commission to approve his request.

“We need to get final approvals for the project, final entitlements from the city,” Kyriopoulos said. “Then we’ll have the architects finish up the construction drawings and architectural work and then if things go well we’ll start digging and put it up this summer.”

Kyriopoulos has owned the 10,000-square-foot property for about eight years and said he finally had the idea to build a truck stop, “to serve the traveling public.”

However, Kyriopoulos said it wouldn’t just be a truck stop. It would include a carwash, barbershop, small grocery store, laundry mat, a couple of restaurants and a farmer’s market during the summer season.

“Trucks are certainly going to be a part of it, but I don’t think the trucks will be a dominating force of this at all,” Kyriopoulos said. “It will just provide basic services that Wellsville is really lacking.”

Kyriopoulos said Wellsville’s biggest asset is the highway. “If we can capture some of that drive-by traffic and get people to drop their dollars into Wellsville, it helps our economy. It gives us a better tax base from sales and property taxes and creates jobs, gives kids a place to work.”

But some residents of Wellsville say Kyriopoulos’ proposal “is a disaster.”

“It’s the wrong thing at the wrong place,” said Don Ewing, who lives in the subdivision across the highway from the proposed truck stop. “For anybody to put a truck stop there, that’s a disaster. We’ve got 55 homes and over 100 children here. ”

Ewing says he’s concerned the truck stop would create traffic and congestion on the highway. There’s only one access road to the subdivision, and he said it’s already dangerous turning onto the highway without the added truck-stop traffic.

“You’re going to kill people here,” he said. “That’s why they generally put truck stops out in the middle of nowhere where you have deceleration lanes, acceleration lanes, and where you can get in and out.”

Resident Paula Thatcher agrees with Ewing. “I personally don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said. “The highway traffic is horrendous. We have a neighborhood that has a lot of little kids, that’s my biggest concern.”

Ewing said the entrance to the truck stop is on a hill, so cars traveling northbound toward Logan wouldn’t see a truck turning into the truck stop soon enough to stop.

“And what’s going to happen when we have smog and inversions here?” said Ewing. “You can’t see the blasted thing, and you’re going to hit it. It’s going to kill people.”

But Kryiopoulos said his plans address that issue because, “The last thing we want to do is see anybody hurt at that intersection.”

The original entrance to the truck stop was at 400 North. But to address safety concerns, the city would install a new road at 500 North—away from the hill—for the entrance to the truck stop.

“This new intersection makes a lot of sense,” Kyriopoulos said. “It brings in a straight intersection across the highway instead of being at a diagonal like 400 North is. Once you get up to 400 North, you can see down the highway cause you’re not stuck on the hill.”

Kyriopoulos also said Horrocks Engineering is doing a traffic study of the area, to determine any necessary precautions that should be considered, such as deceleration and acceleration lanes.

But traffic is not the only concern of residents.

Ewing said the exhaust diesel trucks produce will add to the poor air quality of Cache County. He said he’s gathered studies from institutions such as the University of California and the World Health Organization that say diesel-fuel exhaust causes cancer and other health problems.

“Diesel-using vehicles, when they’re running down the road, really don’t put out that much,” he said. “But when they decelerate or accelerate, when they’re maneuvering inside of a truck stop, they put five to 10 times the amount of pollutants in the air. Here’s the idiocy of the whole thing. I have to take my vehicles down and pay to get them tested, yet they’re talking about putting a truck stop in that’s going to put out more emissions? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Kyriopoulos says the truck stop may shift where the exhausts are located in the valley, but it wouldn’t add additional pollution.

“We’re not going to produce any more emissions in Cache County than there already is in Cache County,” he said. “There’s this mindset out there that a truck driver is going to get off the freeway at Brigham City, drive over Sardine Canyon to come down to Wellsville to buy gas, then go back over the canyon again. That will not happen. The trucks that are coming into Cache Valley are the trucks that are coming into Cache Valley with a purpose. We’re not going to bring in one more truck that wasn’t already going to be coming here.”

Planning Commissioner Jarold Leishman agrees with Kyriopoulos.

“I don’t see it’s going to bring in one more big truck than what’s here already in the valley,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen. I believe we need to make decisions based on some facts and not some hysteria.”

Kyriopoulos said he would put in “electrification stations” to help reduce exhaust emissions.

“A trucker can just pull up, plug their rig in and have power and TV and heat and whatever else they need by plugging into the landline so they’re not running their engines,” he said.

Kyriopoulos said he also hired RMEC Environmental to assess the possible effects the facility might have on the environment.

But Ewing says the assessment isn’t sufficient. “They sent in what they said was an ‘environmental study.’ It’s not an environmental study. It only says what the laws are, it doesn’t say what kind of impact it will have. We need a ‘site-specific human health hazard impact study.’”

Resident Scott Thatcher is concerned about rainwater runoff affecting the environment. “You can’t just dump it in the river, you have to scrub contaminates off of it,” he said. “And the sewer plant is running pretty close to max.”

But Kyriopoulos said the facility would have a water-retention basin, which would treat all the water onsite.

He also said the facility will use LED lights and “geothermal heating” for the water heater to save energy.

“By doing several of these things like recycling products and using solar energy, we offset one bad thing with a couple of other good things, and we end up with a no-net increase in pollutants,” he said.

Katie Christensen, a resident living in the subdivision across the highway from the proposed truck stop, said she’s concerned about the traffic, noise, and pollution. “But the most frustrating part of this, is that the citizens it’s really going to impact, we haven’t been listened to,” she said. “We don’t have a voice. We don’t even get input, we just get ‘shut up.’ It’s really frustrating because that’s not how our government is supposed to work.”

But City Manager Don Hartle said the city welcomes citizen input, but only when the time is appropriate.

“Every meeting we have is a public meeting. It’s open to anyone who wants to attend,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean they have a right to say anything. Within a meeting you can have a public hearing to receive public input, but a chairman or mayor has the right to place limits on that.”

Hartle said the city isn’t leaning one way or another regarding the truck stop, but he can see how it would benefit the city with sales tax, property tax and employment.

Kyriopoulos said the facility would employ 60 to 70 people.

“We want this to be more of a community center, in large part because there isn’t anything else is Wellsville,” he said. “We’re going to have a walking path around the perimeter of the building. We hope to put a playground and benches in there, maybe a pavilion so people can have lunch outside. We want to build something that’s more of a destination. People are going to know about this and want to come here.”

Kyriopoulos said he wants to build something that Wellsville can be proud of.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it and I think we have something here,” he said. “I’ve got a saying that I always use. ‘Change meets resistance.’ And that’s just it. It’s just change. People are uncertain of what it’s going to bring and what it’s going to mean. But I think that once we get it up and get going, they’re going to find it to be a very nice asset to the community.”

TP

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