Pilot’s plans to bring a truck stop to Arlington meets turbulence

Company wants to build 9,520-square-foot truck stop east of the I-5 Island Crossing exit.

Pilot, the nation’s largest chain of interstate truck stops and travel centers, wants to build a travel complex in Arlington that would include Arby’s, PJ Fresh, Cinnabon and more. (Contributed artist rendering)

Pilot, the nation’s largest chain of interstate truck stops and travel centers, wants to build a travel complex in Arlington that would include Arby’s, PJ Fresh, Cinnabon and more. (Contributed artist rendering)

ARLINGTON – The Pilot Travel Center planned for Island Crossing is encountering turbulence.

The nation’s largest chain of interstate truck stops and travel centers plans to build a travel complex on 12.6 acres at Highway 530 and Smokey Point Boulevard east of the I-5 Island Crossing exit.

“This application has had a significant amount of interest, maybe more so than most in the city,” said hearing examiner Ted Hunter, at a meeting on the project last month. About 30 people attended.

The 9,520-square-foot Travel Center building would feature a drive-through Arby’s, PJ Fresh, Cinnabon, retail space, outdoor seating, eight truck fueling lanes, 12 gas pumps for cars and three for RVs, parking and a scale for trucks.

Amenities include showers and public laundry.

Everett attorney Mitch Cogdill, representing the Singh family that owns Arlington Fuel west of I-5 and the Chevron service station just west of the project, said the travel center would obstruct his client’s ability to use his own easement, and design plans would pose adverse impacts on that access where customers would have to pass through the center to get to the Chevron.

Travel Center attorney Ty Wyman countered the company sought a nonexclusive easement, and revised their site plans to create access for Singh’s customers.

The Singh family wanted a divided roadway between the two properties that would enable unfettered access to either business off of Highway 530.

Pilot project manager Ross Shaver said, “We feel like we’re being held hostage by a competitor.”

The hearing examiner said, “Good people should be able to come to a resolution without a battle in front of a hearing examiner.”

He had set a deadline for Friday for the two sides to come to a resolution. Talks continued between the two parties.

With regards to traffic, three access points would be built to serve the travel center, including two on Highway 530 and another on Smokey Point Boulevard, company officials said. A traffic study estimated 3,465 trips in and out of the center daily.

Highway 530 averages a daily volume of 12,000 vehicles a day. As part of WSDOT traffic reconfiguration with the new center’s arrival, travelers heading west on Highway 530 will not be able to access the center.

According to city transportation plans, a roundabout would be built on Highway 530 just east of the current Island Crossing triangle with a realigned boulevard to the south and 27th Avenue to the north feeding into it. The westbound side of the triangle and Smoke Shop entrance would convert to a right turn.

The Stillaguamish Tribe, which owns the River Rock Smoke Shop and other nearby property for potential future economic development, weighed in on transportation as well as cultural resources.

Casey Stevens, planning director with the Stillaguamish Tribes, expressed concerns about traffic flow, safety and right-of-way acquisition. The tribe considered a roundabout during previously, but decided against it due primarily to increased afternoon and Friday traffic congestion it would have created.

At the hearing, Henry Lippek, legal adviser with the Stillaguamish Flood Control District, sought a six-month continuance because he said his district was not notified about the project. The district, which covers 6,040 acres that includes the 100-year flood plain of the lower Stillaguamish River, maintains and operates drainage systems and facilities to reduce flood damage, prevent salt-water intrusion and facilitate better water quality to preserve agricultural lands.

Hunter denied Lippek’s motion because the application being available over the past six months gave ample time for review. Hunter also questioned the district’s jurisdiction.

A report by Drayton Archaeology assessed the cultural, historical and archaeological features on the project site. None were identified, but language is included in project exhibits that gives the tribe options if an inadvertent discovery is made.

The city planning commission approved design review for the project in April, and the company has worked closely with city departments.

“We definitely are very involved in the community, and we’re looking to bring more tax dollars here into the city of Arlington,” Shaver said.

The Travel Center would create as many as 70 jobs, Shaver said.

A company economic impact study stated the Travel Center should generate more than $5 million state and local tax revenues annually, with more than $200,000 anticipated to go to the city as sales and property tax.

Dana Smith, a member of the Henken family that sold the Island Crossing property to Pilot Travel Center, said the new complex will be a welcome addition for Arlington. “Arlington always has been dear to my heart,” she said.

“The city and courts, and Tom Lane (of nearby Dwayne Lane Chevrolet) agree that developing this property is a good thing for our community,” Smith said. “It will mean more jobs, and tax dollars for a great school district.”

The Pilot/Flying J brand is the largest operator of travel centers in North America with over 650 locations, more than 27,000 employees and $20 billion in annual revenue.

Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway last month bought a 38 percent stake in the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company, which will balloon to 80 percent in 2023.

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