Special exception sought by store for gas pumps Neighbors concerned about fumes, traffic

September 04, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Marty Giggard says it is bad enough that she has to live with noisy cars and rambunctious youths who congregate at the telephone booth at the Royal Farms convenience store on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena.

She fears things may get worse if Royal Farms gets permission to convert part of its store in the Sunset Beach neighborhood into a self-service gasoline station.

"It's mostly the fumes from the gas that's going to bother me," Giggard said. "It's a health hazard."

Baltimore-based Cloverland Farms Dairy Inc., which owns Royal Farms, has asked Robert C. Wilcox, the county's administrative hearing officer, to grant the company a special exception to enable it to add a two-pump island that could serve four cars at a time.

A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m., at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Cloverland also would build a canopy above the island, a 214-square-foot addition to the front of the store and 22 parking spaces on the 26,790-square-foot lot.

The company needs waivers from the county to permit the pump island on a lot having less than the required 150 feet of frontage along Poplar and Cloverhill roads, which border the site. Cloverland also must obtain a waiver to build the island within 60 feet -- and off-street parking within 20 feet -- of Fort Smallwood Road.

In May, Charles F. Delavan, the Annapolis lawyer representing Cloverland, filed a report with the application to Wilcox that included some of the reasons the company was seeking the permits.

Delavan said the Royal Farms store cannot survive amid aggressive local competition if it does not offer services similar to those of nearby operations.

He also noted that the site is abutted by a bank and a fast-food restaurant and is directly across the road from a shopping center.

"Upgrading the existing Royal Farms store, and adding self-service gasoline sales, will improve the quality and convenience" of the commercial area that includes the Cloverland property, Delavan wrote.

Neighbors point to four self-service stations within a half-mile of the Royal Farms store and say that another station would be excessive.

"It's kind of ridiculous to put one here," said Thomas LaMartina, who lives behind the site.

LaMartina also is concerned about the volume of traffic the gas station could attract.

"Right now, it's impossible to make a left-hand turn" from Poplar onto Fort Smallwood, he said. "It's an impossible situation. We've got enough traffic in the area."

Larry Velten, a member of the Sunset Beach Community Association, said he and some neighbors are worried that the station would lower the value of their properties.

"In some cases, commercial properties have had a devaluing effect on residential properties," he said. "We feel that our neighborhood is the way we'd like to have it. We don't feel that we need any more commercialization."

Del. John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican who will testify against the application, has sent a letter to Wilcox outlining his opposition. Although he acknowledged that more competition usually favors consumers, Leopold noted that prices at the pump do not fluctuate much from station to station.

"The service stations tend to closely follow competition, and prices are generally in the same ballpark," he said. "I don't think there's going to be a great fluctuation in price that would provide outstanding benefits to residents."

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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