Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: What is happening with the Marathon gas station/brewpub that’s supposed to go in at the corner of Hendersonville Road and Howard Gap Road in Fletcher? I thought construction was supposed to be underway? What’s the ETA?
My answer: You know you’re a Fletcher resident yourself when you’re deeply disappointed that a Marathon station/brewpub might not be coming.
Real answer: This project, all part of Fletcher’s proposed and long-discussed Town Center plan, is on hold for now, at least. And yes, as a Fletcher resident, I’m a little sad about it.
The town owns this land, about a block long, on the east side of Hendersonville Road (U.S. 25) between Howard Gap Road to the south and East Fanning Bridge Road to the north. Earlier this year, the town contracted for the demolition of the existing buildings along the stretch, including the iconic Fletcher Lawn & Garden store, which had been a stalwart of the Howard Gap intersection for six decades (the store relocated to a nearby building).
The plan was for the Lewis Real Estate Group, in partnership with the Waddell Family, which owns the J.H. Reaben Oil and Supply Company/Triangle Stop Food Stores chain in the Hendersonville area, to redevelop the property. The Waddells would build a Marathon station/convenience store, with a small beer bar inside, with construction starting this year and the store opening in 2023.
But the lot remains vacant, as does the whole stretch.
“We dropped our option because of the struggles with the DOT granting right of way permits,” Hall Waddell, president of Reaben Oil/Triangle Stop, said Dec. 19. “We could not see where the resolution was.”
The Marathon gas station was proposed for this site at the corner of Hendersonville Road and Howard Gap Road.
Waddell said they had “three or four meetings” with the Town of Fletcher and the North Carolina Department of Transportation trying to work something out.
“But it was something that needed to be handled between the DOT and the Town of Fletcher,” Waddell said. “Hopefully, we can come back and revisit the project when that gets worked out.”
David Uchiyama, spokesperson for the NCDOT in Western North Carolina, said via email the parties continue to work on a resolution to keep the Town Center plan moving forward.
“As with any major project of this magnitude, adjustments are necessary from the original idea,” Uchiyama said. “For example, one idea would have resulted in an unacceptable delay to turn left onto Hendersonville Road during peak hours. That idea has been all but eliminated.”
Uchiyama said NCDOT officials now are waiting for data and analysis from an outside traffic consultant.
“That information will help determine which desired features are feasible — what can go where — for current and future traffic conditions,” Uchiyama said.
In all, the development plans called for the Marathon station, four other commercial buildings and two residential buildings. Lewis Real Estate would have been spearheading the buildings other than the Marathon.
Martin Lewis of Lewis Real Estate referred questions to Fletcher Town Manager Mark Biberdorf.
Biberdorf said he recently made a presentation to Town Council about the delays and the ongoing traffic analysis, called a Traffic Impact Analysis, or TIA.
“The purchase and sale agreement was technically terminated because of this frustration with the amount of mitigation improvements that the TIA was requiring,” Biberdorf said. “What we’ve agreed to do, the town, is finish the process with the TIA, and also try to bring it back. We’re hoping all parties – meaning the town, the DOT, and hopefully the developer – get back into this, and to what’s a reasonable level of mitigation improvements as a result of the impact of this project on traffic, not just traffic in general.”
A previous version of the TIA, Biberdorf said, was calling for improvements at two intersections about a half mile each from the project. That plan got tweaked, and those intersections removed from the plan. Biberdorf said current mitigation discussions mostly revolve around the Fanning Bridge and Howard Gap intersections.
“We’re getting close to finishing another draft of it,” Biberdorf said, referring to the traffic analysis. “Then we have to go back and meet with DOT and see if these are acceptable, as far as meeting their requirements. And then we want to bring, hopefully, the developer back to the table.”
The proposal now calls for an additional left turn lane on East Fanning Bridge, and then on the other side Hendersonville Road, the addition of a right-turn lane on Fanning Bridge Road.
Also, plans call for a second left-turn lane on U.S. 25 as vehicles approach Howard Gap from the north, and more distance added to the “receiving lanes” once vehicles turn onto Howard Gap. In general, traffic gets backed up in the area during the morning and evening rush hours.
The town has owned the property in question for about a year and a half. Biberdorf said the town and the developer knew DOT permits would be an issue with the project, as it fronts U.S. 25, a DOT road.
“We’d gone through all due diligence on this – this was the last thing, but it was a pretty significant one that the developer was just not comfortable crossing the bridge there, so to speak,” Biberdorf said of the potential traffic fixes required. “It’s fixable, but it’s got to get to a reasonable level there so someone’s willing to invest in a property like this.”
As far as a timetable for a resolution that could allow the project to move ahead, Biberdorf said he’d like one as soon as possible.
“The longer this goes on, the harder it is to bring our developer, our partner, back in,” he said. “So time is of the essence.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or (828) 337-0941.