OKEECHOBEE — A new RaceTrac gas station/convenience store will soon be built on property in the 900 to 1000 block of State Road 70 East. This new store will have four large-truck fueling stations on the 18.9 acre site and will eventually replace the existing store. There are plans for a left-turn lane into the site on eastbound State Road 70.
The coming of the new gas station/store was not met with enthusiasm by the residents of the adjoining River Run mobile home park, who were unhappy at the thought of all the traffic, lights, noise, pollution, decline in property values and increase in crime it could bring. Unfortunately for them, their protests had no effect, because they are in a heavy commercial zoned area.
Jack Tickerhoff, who lives in the affected neighborhood, spoke on the subject. One of his many concerns was what the new owners plan to do with the rest of the property. With the RaceTrac going on a little more than 6 acres, and the property being almost 19, what will they put on the rest of that property, he wondered. “Years ago they were going to put in a Target, but they wouldn’t put up a wall, so that deal fell through,” he said.
Semis will not be permitted to park overnight in the parking lot, but the technical review committee questioned whether there would be any way to enforce it. It was mentioned that generally when semi truck drivers park in a lot overnight, they leave the trucks running, and if there are five or six trucks running, it will create a lot of noise.
Because there will be noise and lights 24-hours a day, the technical review committee suggested that the owners be required to provide a buffer wall on the west side of the property to protect the existing residents from some of these effects and that they provide additional landscaping on the north end of the property. The part of the property they will be building on at this time will not extend all the way to the north end of the almost 19 acres, and this landscaping will provide a buffer between the station and the neighbors.
The planning and zoning board was also concerned with the well being of the neighbors to the west and the north of the proposed gas station/store. There will be large-truck fueling stations at the rear of the property. In addition, there will be 23 parking spaces for large trucks at the rear of the property, and they were concerned about the noise and lights back there. Because of this, they agreed that an 8-foot buffer wall along the west side would be a requirement.
Contrary to popular belief, not all new businesses have to go before the city council or the county commissioners before they come to Okeechobee. As far as he knows, RaceTrac project managers will not be appearing before the city council for any reason, said City Administrator Marcos Montes de Oca.
The new RaceTrac will be what is called an expanded diesel offering, and this will be the first one in the state of Florida, said Samantha Jones, project manager. It is not a truck stop. There will be no showers or changing rooms. The first of RaceTrac’s expanded diesel offering stations was opened in 2018.