The table of allowable uses in each zoning classification "is what it is". Usually, commercial and industrial zones are "less" or "more" intensive, allowing for certain commercial uses but not others. If the R3 zone doesn't provide for gas stations, you either need a rezoning of that area to C4, a change in the table of uses allowing gas station in all R3 zones, or a use variance.
A lawyer will probably tell you that any of those potential approvals are equally very difficult approvals to get. The fact that the local legislative body considers dunlin donuts a less intensive use than a gas station is rational. Also, some of the uses you consider as intensive as a gas station may be prior non-conforming uses, in other words, built before the current zoning restrictions.
The reasons gas stations are considered intensive is related to traffic generation and possible pollution from underground storage tanks, as well as the risk of fire and explosion.
Hiring an attorney to get this approval is going to be a waste of money or cost a lot. Hiring a lawyer to explain to you how zoning approvals work and spending a couple hundred dollars for an hour or two of his time is worth it if you are really that curious.
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R3 is residential zoning.
Are the Home Depot and other commercial properties also zoned R3? If you own the property already, it may be worth your time to determine if these establishments have obtained variances to build commercial in a residential zone.
If you don't own the property, consider finding a parcel that meets the C4 requirement. Getting a variance is costly and time consuming.
I agree with Jack Lebowitz and Timothy Kassouni. I recommend you hire an attorney to consult with respect to the internal workings of how to convert the zoning classification, or if you do not own the property to look for a property that already fits the classification you need. Path of least resistance.
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