Crime, pollution and a depreciation of property values are among the chief concerns neighbors of a proposed Turtlecreek Twp. truck stop have about the new businesses that could be entering their neighborhood.
Pilot Flying J wants to build a $9 million truck stop/travel center at the Ohio 123/Interstate 71 interchange on a 10 acre parcel of land. The truck stop would include a variety of facilities for truck drivers, including overnight parking spaces, a deli, a Wendy’s with a drive-thru and multiple fuel pumps.
Warren County Commissioners are holding a meeting to vote on approving the plan at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at the county administrative building, 406 Justice Drive, Lebanon.
Potential neighbors of the truck stop, like Tony Collins, who lives about 2 miles away in the Timbercreek subdivision, have concerns about the truck stop coming to the neighborhood.
“At first, I didn’t think it was a bad idea,” Collins said. “But then I started looking into some statistics about truck stops and was really taken aback at what I found.”
Collins began contacting counties that already had Flying J’s, focusing on the crime in the area. He said, for example, that at a Flying J truck stop in Beaverdam — located off Interstate 75 near Lima — police had received more than 2,400 complaints to the truck stop, including almost 600 complaints of prostitution and more than 400 complaints of “serious crimes” including thefts, drugs and criminal damaging since the truck stop opened in 1999.
“I’m not trying to be emotional about it,” Collins said. “But looking at the raw data, I find these numbers to be really concerning. If this was a bar, they would absolutely have their liquor license revoked for posting numbers like this. I don’t see how putting this here can be considered in the best interest of the community.”
A representative of Pilot Flying J said it is the company’s policy to not discuss projects during the permitting phase.
Jim Kuschill, who also lives in the Timbercreek subdivision, said he is concerned the area’s air quality will be harmed by trucks idling at the new truck stop.
“Warren County’s air is ‘icky’ to put it bluntly,” Kuschill said. Warren County has consistently ranked among the worst 10 counties in Ohio in terms of air quality, according to the Ohio EPA. The American Lung Association ranked the Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington region as the 21st most ozone polluted city in 2012.
Ohio does not require truck stops to have small electric generators for truckers to use while resting so they can power their heaters or air conditioners without having to leave their trucks idling, according to Kuschill.
Kuschill said he’s also found that areas with truck stops seem to have very little other businesses built near them.
“They just become dead zones,” Kuschill said. “This is an area being targeted for business development. I think the truck stop could kill that.”
“If I had my druthers, a truck stop is not what I would like to see at that exit,” Warren County Commissioner Pat South said. “While I sympathize with all the residents about a truck stop going in at that location, there is nothing we as the county commissioner can legally do. It’s a transaction between private businesses in a property already zoned to allow a truck stop.”
South said the land had been appropriately zoned for a truck stop-like businesses since the 1950s and the truck stop made their application to begin building on the land before a JEDD — a zoning and property development agreement made between the city of Lebanon and Turtlecreek Twp., which could have prevented the facilities construction — had been agreed upon.
South said she had advocated for more greenery and landscaping as a way to cut back on potential pollution coming from the truck stop and also ordered the company to conduct a noise study, similar to one performed for the racino project on Ohio 63 on the western end of Turtlecreek Twp. But South said she did not believe the commissioners could legally prohibit the truck stop from coming.
“I think it would end up in a very costly lawsuit that we would ultimately lose,” South said.
South said she also had concerns about potential traffic backups along Ohio 123 and I-71 because of trucks entering and leaving the truck stop.
“My question is whether or not the required improvements are adequate to prevent back ups, especially if the area is developed further,” South said.