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Mail Tribune file photo A pair of trucks take a break from the road at the Talent Truck Stop area last summer.

Talent Truck Stop back in business

Diesel fueling has resumed and a small convenience store has opened at the Talent Truck Stop while the property owners prepare another application to the city seeking approval to modernize the 5.4-acre site for both big rigs and cars.

A Planning Commission ruling in favor of truck-stop expansion was overturned on appeal by the town’s hearings officer in November. Current operations are permitted because that is the property’s historical use, which dates to the 1970s, although there has been little activity in recent years.

“We are getting good response. We are just starting that as it is until we get approval for the new development,” said owner Sam Soniminde. The business is open 24 hours per day.

Through a holding company, Soniminde operates the recently refurbished Gordy’s Truck Stop in La Pine. The company also has the Spirit Truck Stop on Interstate 75 in Lake Panasoffkee, Florida.

Part of a building on the site next to the refueling area was refurbished to create the convenience store, which also includes showers for truckers. If project approval is obtained, the building would be demolished.

Fueling for trucks and cars, a 24-hour restaurant, a convenience store and a trucker’s lounge were proposed for the site, at 251 W. Valley View Road. Old structures at the site would be removed. There are no plans to resume truck washing or lubrication services that were previously available at the site, said Soniminde.

Hearings Officer Rick Whitlock ruled that the previous application had insufficient data to determine whether a traffic study would be needed. Soniminde said a traffic analysis has been done and that the study looks favorable for allowing the upgrades. He expects to submit a new application to the city within the next couple of weeks.

Nearby neighbors in the Oak Valley subdivision had opposed the upgrade, but the appeal was filed by Gary Hall, a trucking industry consultant.

Dan Davis, an Oak Valley resident, said he’s concerned about safety near the Exit 21 offramp and also about noise that may come from the truck stop.

“I’ve written to (Oregon Department of Transportation) about Exit 21,” said Davis. Big rigs turning right onto Valley View Road from the southbound offramp will present a hazard to traffic using the road, he said. The agency has told him it will study the situation.

Sound barriers and sound attenuation strategies were included in the previous application, said Davis. “We’ll be watching that closely,” Davis said of a new application.

Soniminde’s proposal calls for a two-story building, new fueling islands and parking for up to 60 big rigs and 100 cars. The current arrangement can accommodate 45 semis. Truckers can park overnight at the facility.

Large truck-stop operations are located nearby in Phoenix, Medford and Central Point. Soniminde says Interstate 5 is one of the best routes for semitruck traffic, and he expects that an expanded site would give him good business.

There are currently a dozen employees, but if the new facility is built, there would be between 90 and 100.

“We have our loyal customers from our La Pine truck stop who have wanted us to be here,” said Soniminde. “They have told us for the diesel they will be supporting us.”

In May 2017, voters approved a 3-cents-per-gallon tax on sales of diesel fuel in town. Talent officials placed the measure on the ballot after Phoenix passed a diesel fuel tax to help cover costs of repairing city streets used by truckers to access the Petro Stopping Center.

“We are much more than happy to pay the diesel tax,” said Soniminde. “We can help the development for travel. We are looking forward to contributing our best to the city.”

The former truck stop restaurant on the site remains closed but its reputation as a great place to eat lives on.

“I’ve been asked by all the people, ‘When are you going to start the restaurant? You had the best food here,’ ” said Soniminde.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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