Wakulla Planning Commission fails to recommend controversial gas station proposal

Southwest Georgia Oil wants to build an Inland gas station at the intersection, but critics say the location puts Wakulla’s treasured natural landmark at risk.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:51 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 9:51 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Wakulla Springs is at the center of yet another fight between developers and local residents.

A plan to build a gas station at the intersection of US 319 and SR 267 met a roadblock Monday after the Wakulla County Planning Commission voted five to one to not recommend zoning changes.

Southwest Georgia Oil wants to build an Inland gas station at the intersection, but critics say the location puts Wakulla’s treasured natural landmark at risk.

St. Marks resident Robert Conroy was one of about 15 people who spoke against the plan at Monday’s meeting.

“Where they want to build this gas station is in exactly the wrong place,” he said.

Opponents point to a series of caves that border the property that they say connect with Wakulla Springs several miles downstream.

“We really don’t know enough to be risking [this], there’s only one Wakulla Springs in the whole world,” Conroy said.

Consultants associated with the company presented to the planning commission, arguing that the company uses state-of-the-art technology to prevent leaks and goes above and beyond current state regulations.

“They are absolutely going to do what is necessary to make sure there is not an environmental issue,” consultant Edward Bass said to the commission.

Wakulla County resident Gil Damon has been on the frontlines of several recent local environmental fights.

“Building a gas station on top of a cave that feeds Wakulla Springs is not a no brainer” he said.

“It was a bad idea, they recognized that, and we applaud them for that.”

A gas station currently stands on the other side of the intersection in question. Some planning commissioners wondered what that station’s current impact was, but no one in the room had an answer.

Critics of the new station admit the current station could be concerning, but the four-pump operation is much smaller than the proposed 16 pump and car wash facility.

“What we can control is additional harm, additional threats. We can’t control what’s already there,” Damon said.

All eyes now turn to the Wakulla County Board of Commissioners, which will hear this item at their next meeting Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. The commissioners will make a much more binding decision at that meeting.

The planning commission also voted to recommend bringing a hydrologist or other expert to that meeting to give the county commission a better understanding of the situation.

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