Love is making a stop in McDuffie County. Love's Travel Stop that is.
The well-known gas station, convenience store, truck stop combination is eyeing the property next to the Waffle House on the north side of Interstate 20 at Exit 172.
The 8.3 acre site represents a $5 million investment by the company. Representatives from Love's Travel Stop estimate that the proposed complex could generate between 30 and 50 new jobs as well as $3 million in annual sales which translates to $100,000 in sales tax each year.
"This is a substantial group out of Oklahoma," said Planning and Zoning Director Fred Guerrant. " ...They seem to be a substantial company that I believe will run a clean operation and will not be prone to, shall we say, moving out at any time in the near future."
The problem McDuffie County Commissioners had was not with the jobs and money that the operation could bring to the county. Their problem was with the store's sign.
McDuffie County's two-year-old sign ordinance limits new sign height in the county to no more than 30 feet and total sign square footage to 112. Love's Travel Stop asked for a variance so that their sign could be 175 feet tall and 1068 square feet in order to allow motorists time to exit after seeing the sign.
Representatives from Love's told commissioners at last week's meeting that they could live with a 95 foot sign which matches the height of several older signs currently at the interchange that were grandfathered in under the ordinance.
"You don't want to get to be a community with the reputation of running businesses off," said Commission Chairman Charlie Newton who also expressed concern about opening the door to other large signs.
During Tuesday's special called meeting, commissioners approved the variance to allow the 95 foot tall, 1000 square foot sign. Commissioners had spent the week polling citizens about the issue.
"A tall sign out there on that interchange might get some additional people off that go not only to the Love's truck stop but to some of those other business out there," Chairman Newton said.
Commissioners also discussed creating an overlay district around interstate interchanges that would allow for taller signs. Further study on the overlay issue is still in the works, but Mr. Guerrant reported that several other communities have a similar ordinance.
Mr. Guerrant thinks the idea of allowing the taller signs at interstate exits could be beneficial for businesses and the county.
"If there is such a thing in zoning, it may be a win-win situation," he said.
Pending final approval by the Commission, construction on the Love's Travel Stop could begin as early as April of next year.