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    Mesa Eyes C-Store Limits

    Trade groups, lawmakers split over new store growth.

    MESA, Ariz. -- As convenience stores pop up throughout Arizona, Mesa City Council members are looking to curb the number of new units dotting major intersections. Lawmakers said they are exploring measures that would limit the addition of new stores without infringing on free enterprise and creating lawsuits.

    Neighboring cities, such as Scottsdale and Chandler already have store limits, according to The Arizona Republic.

    "Other cities aren't suffering by having a proliferation of gas stations on every corner," Councilman Bill Jaffa said. "We also have a number of gas stations that are folding. That says that our development guidelines are probably much too liberal."

    Mesa officials estimated the city has about 140 gas stations and convenience stores in an area roughly 129 square miles. In contrast, Scottsdale lists about 75 gas stations and convenience stores for its 184.6 square miles.

    City officials included a draft policy in Mesa's new general plan that would limit the number of "auto-oriented commercial uses" to a maximum of two corners of an arterial street intersection. The plan will have to go through public hearings with the Planning Division and the City Council, and then to a vote in the November election, Mesa planning Director Frank Mizner said.

    "If you are a believer in the free enterprise system, and I am, and if the area is zoned for commercial use ... then do you say, do you know what? There is another gas station just one mile away?" she said. "How many is too many Walgreens? How many is too many Oscos?"

    Luz Rubio, executive director of the Arizona Automotive Trade Organization, a group of 198 owners of independent stations, said she'd favor the Mesa idea, "if what they're trying to do is limit the number of stations to preserve the independent dealers," she said. "Then we would agree with that."

    However, a spokesman for a trade group representing about 30 Western states' Big Oil companies, said the group would oppose any limits. "We think that competition is good for the marketplace. There is certainly an interest in affordable gasoline products for the motoring public," said Jeff Wilson of the Western States Petroleum Association.

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