Gas pumps go on, ending owner's battle WEST COUNTY--Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

December 18, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The gas pumps were turned on this week at Foster's Country Store near West Friendship, ending a five-month struggle that cost its new owner dearly.

"If I didn't have things to liquidate, personal belongings, I would have been buried. I would have never been able to make payments," said Mr. Foster, who bought the store at Route 144 and Triadelphia Road in March from Beulah Gearhart, whose family owned the store since the 1940s.

To make the gas pumps and tank safer, Mr. Foster replaced them, set them further from the road and away from the intersection.

But because he moved the pumps and someone complained to the county Department of Planning & Zoning, authorities cited him for zoning violations.

To defend his new business, he had to prove the 1,150-square-foot country store and pumps had existed before zoning regulations prohibited such uses in the rural area.

The county Board of Appeals heard testimony from Mr. Foster's neighbors and customers on Nov. 12 attesting to the store's longevity. Mr. Foster's store was exempted from current zoning, and he received a signed decision allowing him to start pumping gas Wednesday.

Although county zoning officials helped him through the process, Mr. Foster estimates he lost nearly $40,000 in business.

Mr. Foster said spending $660 in fees and $3,000 for an attorney while making payments on his new equipment forced him to sell $6,500 in stocks, bonds, gold pieces, nail guns and his diamond pinky ring.

"I think there needs to be somebody who had the authority to use common sense, and not to be tied up in the bureaucratic entanglement," Mr. Foster said.

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