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Will a new downtown gas station lower prices in Pittsboro? Eagles to enter the market

A developer wants to put a new gas station on this property at 165 East St., near downtown Pittsboro.
A developer wants to put a new gas station on this property at 165 East St., near downtown Pittsboro. jjohnson@heraldsun.com

A gas station some people did not want in downtown Pittsboro is coming anyway.

The Town Board reluctantly, but unanimously, approved plans Monday night for a new Eagles gas station blocks from the Historic Courthouse and across the street from a landmark Masonic Lodge.

Dilip Gandhi and his company, Eagles Enterprises, persevered 15 months before winning approval. He paid about $877,000 for the 1.74 acre parcel, according to county land records, that will give his chain nearly 30 outlets across the Triangle.

Gandhi said he is happy to be moving forward with redeveloping the old car dealership lot that has sat vacant for years, except when Noel’s vegetable stand offered fresh produce and scoops of ice cream.

The new Eagles will have a brick exterior housing a restaurant and convenience store. It will sit close to East Street with gas pumps in the back. It will be the second Eagles in Chatham County. The other is near the Chatham-Orange line on U.S. 15-501 and has been open since the late 1990s, Gandhi said.

It took less than 15 minutes for town commissioners to approve the latest plan Monday night. In April when the gas station was last up for consideration, opponents attended the meeting and saw the council delay approval. No opponents showed up this time.

The decision still didn’t sit well with Commissioner John Bonitz.

When the store opens in about a year at 165 East St., it will make seven filling stations within sight of the courthouse.

“We really need gas stations on the outskirts of town,” Bonitz said. “We don’t need one across the street from a historic Masonic Hall. It’s just bad urban planning.”

Commissioner Jay Farrell said having another gas station could lead to lower gas prices.

The price of gas Tuesday in Pittsboro ranged from $2.19 to 2.25 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com. That range was comparable to Durham and Chapel Hill, but some Raleigh stations have dropped prices below $2 per gallon.

Long road to approval

Eagles, which initially filed its site plan for approval in October 2017, contends that it met all of the town’s rules from the beginning.

It was first up for approval in April 2018, but the Town Board put off its decision for two weeks. The board then found a technical error related to the number of parking spaces in the application and used it to reject the gas station.

Eagles corrected and resubmitted the plan. But it also sued the town in June, contending the Town Board had not followed its own rules by delaying the approval and should have followed the recommendation of the town’s Planning Board.

The corrected plans remained in the town’s Planning Office through the summer. Gandhi said he did not want to rush through the approval process again and face more delays if another error was discovered. The project got approval from the Planning Board in December and once again faced the Town Board Monday.

The gas station was approved under the town’s old zoning ordinance. The property is zoned C-2 (Highway Commercial), which allows gas stations. Pittsboro has since adopted a more restrictive zoning that constrains the types of businesses downtown. Gas stations are prohibited under the new rules, but Eagles will be allowed because it was filed before the new rules.

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