BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening before voting on whether to approve preliminary plans for a convenience store and service station to be built on property currently owned by Faith United Church.
The store would be built on the southeast corner of State Road 64 and 48th Street Court East. The planning commission on March 20 recommended approval of the project.
Thorntons, based in Indiana, was the only one to make an offer made on the corner parcel of land the church is selling to pay off its mortgage.
"We don't have the resources to maintain the mortgage and will without a doubt default before the end of the year if this sale does not go through," church member Janis Groth said.
Thorntons plans to build a 4,400-square-foot convenience store along with 10 fuel pumps, all of which would be open 24 hours a day.
This has many residents in neighboring Braden River Lakes unhappy. They fear increased traffic will be a safety issue for children who take the bus to and from school.
"My daughter is in senior year of high school, so it won't be an issue but it will for every other kid out there," resident Daniel Ferry said.
Hours of operation are also a concern.
"I found out it is going to be open 24 hours," Ferry said. "I'm worried about the noise over there, all night."
Other residents are not completely opposed to the proposed project but are concerned with fuel trucks clogging up the only entrance to Braden River Lakes.
"I don't care that the Thorntons is going to be built there, but our concern is the only entrance to our subdivision," resident Judy Gumpper said.
Meanwhile, church members are urging the city to approve the plan. While a gas station was not ideal, it was the only offer for the land.
"It's going to be commercial regardless," Groth said, "But if this sale doesn't go through we are not going to be able to hang on for another."
Despite its efforts, the church cannot afford the more than $4,000 monthly mortgage payment.
Groth, whose husband is the church treasurer, says they have tried to be good neighbors by allowing a school bus stop in their parking lot and the neighborhood association to meet for free at the church.
"We reinforced our entrances so the bus can go in and out," Groth said.
City officials initially shared some of the residents' concerns.
"My only concern is the traffic situation," City Councilman Bemis Smith said. "That intersection there has consistently been a problem for us."
While he says change is tough, Smith has reminded residents that chances are the church property will be developed commercially.
"We are looking at a major thoroughfare and there is a lot of traffic. It's going to be developed," Smith said.
According to city planner Tim Polk, the Florida Department of Transportation is currently widening State Road 64, increasing turn-signal times, reducing the speed limit to 45 mph and changing out traffic lights.
Also, the city recently received a pre-application for a proposed Wawa convenience store with fuel pumps at nearby 4455 State Road 64 East.
While many pre-applications don't actually get approved, if the Wawa and the Thorntons were to be built they would be within a mile of each other, as well as an existing 7-Eleven at 4227 State Road 64 East.
Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.