Rezone for “truckstop–small” denied by Monroe County, ends 30 years of overnight truck parking

Off SR-37 south of Bloomington and just south of the spot where I-69 and the state highway merge sits Sunmart, a Shell gas station and convenience store that also allows overnight truck parking.

The overnight truck parking now has to end, because a requested rezoning of the nearly 5-acre property was denied on a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

The use of the land as a convenience store and daytime truck parking is legal under Monroe County zoning. So those uses can continue.

What seemed to be the key consideration weighed by commissioners was the fact that the use of the land for overnight truck parking had been in violation of zoning code for 30 years. And they were persuaded by a view expressed during public comment that to rezone the property to allow what had been a non-conforming use would amount to “rewarding” the non-conformance.

Commissioner Lee Jone said, “I don’t think it sets a good precedent to remove restrictions that have been violated for 30 years.”

President of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas put it like this: “Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you’ve been able to do and get away with for 30 years, rather than complain that you’re not able to continue to get away with it.”

If it had been approved, the zoning would have changed from PB (pre-existing business) to a PUD (planned unit development). A PUD is a kind of customized zoning that allows for a combination of uses not possible under other zoning designations.

The planning staff had recommended against the rezoning to allow for overnight truck parking. The plan commission had forwarded a “no recommendation” to the commissioners.

On Wednesday morning, it was attorney Michael Carmin who argued the case in front of the commissioners on behalf of the owner, P & G Associates, Inc.

A key argument made by Carmin was the idea that the requested use defined by the PUD, which was labeled “truckstop–small,” is substantially different from the “truckstop/travel plaza” use that appears in Monroe County zoning code.

Most of the uses associated with a truckstop/travel plaza would not be allowed for a truckstop–small. Not allowed would be: scales; truck wash; tire repair and sales; barbershop; shower facility; trucker’s lounge; motel/hotel laundry; and propane gas bottle dispensing.

Carmin told commissioners he wished he had not labeled the defined use with the word “truckstop” at all—because of the associations that come with that word. Carmin said, “I wish I’d called this the ‘convenience store plus.’” He wondered if it would have made any difference to describe it as “just a convenience store that also allows a little bit of truck parking.”

About the non-conforming overnight truck parking over a period of 30 years, Carmin said, “This has been an uninterrupted use for over 30 years, and it has not harmed the neighborhood.” He continued, “If this PUD is denied, the station does not go away. The signage does not go away. Nothing goes away, except some truck parking.”

The truck parking is an important revenue source for the business, Carmin said. It’s also a safety issue, because it’s the only rest stop for truck drivers for a 100-mile stretch, Carmin said.

About the safety issue, Thomas said, “INDOT’s failure to create rest areas on I-69 because they wanted to save money doesn’t make it our responsibility or anyone else’s to create them.”

11 thoughts on “Rezone for “truckstop–small” denied by Monroe County, ends 30 years of overnight truck parking

  1. No Commissioner Thomas- it isn’t “creating” a rest area, it’s simply allowing a local small business to continue offering the same services to their customers they have for 30 years, and maintaining safer highways as a side benefit.

    These “public servants” don’t hesitate to sacrifice public safety and property rights in pursuit of more control. When (not if) truck drivers start falling asleep and killing people on local roads we can thank the Commissioners for banning the last place truckers could sleep for 100 miles – so much for honoring them as heroic essential workers during the pandemic and post-pandemic supply chain mess. Oh the horror of seeing a few trucks parked at night where they have for decades- thank goodness Julie saved us from the status quo that hasn’t caused any problems for anyone.

    1. And since the county ALLOWED the so called violation to exist for 30 years, the county was giving its approval. If it was so horrible, why allow it? It seems that the county was allowing it.

  2. The response by the Commissioners sounds like retribution and just plain mean. It doesn’t appear and no argument was to made as why overnight parking can’t be allowed. Especially if daytime parking is allowed.

    1. Having watched the proceedings, one neighbor spoke against the overnight parking during the public comment period. I was surprised that was not in the story but maybe I missed it.

      1. “And they were persuaded by a view expressed during public comment that to rezone the property to allow what had been a non-conforming use would amount to ‘rewarding’ the non-conformance.”

  3. This highlights exactly why we all need to vote. These particular commissioners time and time again have shown that they are in the business of their own agendas instead of what is good for the county.

    The place in question has went by the common name of “The Truck Stop” for over 30 years, and is the ONLY location in the county that has retail dual fuel pumps which are used for most “trucks.” But please, blame the state? I think our county commissioners need to be with the city, as that is their modus operandi for many issues.

    It’s quite clear our current county commissioners do not care about the potential safety hazards they have just placed onto our roads.

  4. If people can park (and presumably sleep) during the day, what is fundamentally different with people doing the same thing at night? People work (and sleep) at all different hours of the day so it seems unfair to put restrictions on some hours rather than others. I’m sure there was some middle-ground where the violation of zoning ordinances that had been occurring (and seems to have been largely ignored up until now) could have been acknowledged without the need to cut off a service to truck drivers who work hard to keep supply chains flowing smoothly across our country – and cut off what seems to be a source of income for our county (because there seem to be no/few other resources of this type). I know these decisions are hard to make and lots of info has to be factored in…but this one truly stumps me.

  5. The Truck Stop is not a problem. Overnight parking is not a problem. In fact both are solutions. This business is the only one of its type for many miles. I would like to see the county reverse this decision immediately.

  6. Pols just cop liberal postures. They are not interested in the well-being of citizens—esp truckers. Sad.

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