A proposed Sheetz location on the southwest corner of Dequindre and East 13 Mile roads was denied special approval by the Madison Heights City Council May 13 due to possible impacts on neighbors, traffic and other businesses.

A proposed Sheetz location on the southwest corner of Dequindre and East 13 Mile roads was denied special approval by the Madison Heights City Council May 13 due to possible impacts on neighbors, traffic and other businesses.

Photo provided by Matt Lonnerstater

Madison Heights City Council denies special approval for Sheetz

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published May 31, 2024


MADISON HEIGHTS — A controversial proposal for a new gas station and convenience store in Madison Heights has been denied special approval by the City Council.

The formal applicant was Skilken Gold, a real estate development firm working on behalf of Sheetz, a Pennsylvania-based chain that is trying to expand into Michigan.

Under the city’s zoning ordinance, “gasoline service stations” require special approval from the council since they can have significant impacts on adjacent properties. All seven members unanimously denied the request at the council meeting May 13.

“Generally speaking, I’m torn,” Madison Heights Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss said at the meeting. “I want to be pro-business, I want the increase in taxes, I want to be able to take that money and invest in our police and fire and all the things that make this community great and safe and walkable. But the Planning Commission noted in their meeting several concerns, and I don’t think those concerns have been alleviated.”

Sheetz had applied for a site at 30901 Dequindre Road, at the southwest corner of Dequindre and East 13 Mile roads. The property spans 1.55 acres, in a strip mall with associated parking.

The applicant would have demolished the strip mall and constructed a store and fuel pump canopy (6,132 square feet) with eight fueling stations, each with two pumps for 16 pumps total.

Along with gasoline services and a convenience store, Sheetz also would have featured a quick-service restaurant with made-to-order and grab-and-go offerings. The restaurant would have been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.

Last November, the proposal was submitted to the Planning Commission for preliminary feedback. The commission raised concerns about the impacts a 24-hour operation could have on nearby residential properties, such as noise, light and increased traffic.

Other concerns included the proximity of the gas pump canopy to the west property line and adding another vehicle-oriented business at a busy intersection, as well as an increase in pollution.

The applicant addressed several of the concerns, noting that the convenience store would be positioned between the fuel pumps and nearby condominiums, serving as a screen between the two. The parking lot and dumpster enclosure were also shifted away from the condominiums to the west.

The density of gas stations in the area was another concern. According to Matt Lonnerstater, the city planner for Madison Heights, there are currently 21 gas stations within city limits. The city is only 7 square miles, so that amounts to three gas stations per square mile, and one gas station per 1,333 residents. Nineteen existing gas stations are located within a 1-mile radius of the site.

He also noted that while city staff echoed the Planning Commission’s concerns about the proximity of a 24-hour gas station to residential areas, the lack of alignment with the city’s master plan and land use policies, and the addition of yet another gas station, there were some perceived benefits to the plan, such as the opportunity for improved landscaping at the site.

But the council members concluded the risks outweighed the potential rewards.

“At this specific site and distance to residents, the amount of fuel pumps, the light pollution, the noise and smells are definitely something that concerned me,” Bliss said.

He added that while he saw letters of support from members of the community, he didn’t see any from the neighborhood that would be most affected. Bliss also felt that Sheetz should have held town hall meetings soliciting feedback from the public, given the impacts the proposal would have on neighbors and traffic flow.

“I would have loved to see something like that here,” Bliss said to applause from the crowd.

After the meeting, City Councilman Quinn Wright said he listened closely to the concerns of residents and business owners alike in reaching his verdict.

“I think with Sheetz, it boiled down to what was the sentiment of the overall community. I think there was a lot of support for Sheetz from residential members of our community. However, from the business community especially, there was a tremendous pushback and concern about the long-term impacts Sheetz would have on their business,” Wright said. “I think that at the end of the day, what we have to do is not necessarily regulate the market but uphold our ordinances and make sure that we understand the impact special approvals will have overall on the community. And here we determined that the overall impact didn’t warrant special approval.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said via email that the council learned a lot from the Sheetz application process.

“I appreciate Sheetz for shining a light to the number of residents who would like to see that corner revitalized with a new grocery store and restaurant for busy families, and I want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts on the development,” Grafstein said. “The feedback we received from the community was invaluable in guiding our decisions. I am excited to see what kind of new development will go in there.”

When contacted for comment, Ashley Nathan, project manager at Skilken Gold, said that Sheetz will continue to try and make inroads in the community.

“While we are disappointed by the City Council’s decision, especially given the amount of support Sheetz has in Madison Heights, we appreciated the opportunity to share the Sheetz story with the community and local officials,” Nathan said via email. “Sheetz will continue its expansion with the goal of bringing its brand of fresh made-to-order food and 24/7 convenience to southeast Michigan. We hope to continue the dialogue with local officials in the future.”