Severn leaders oppose store's expansion Fears of gas explosion and increased traffic at heart of opposition

November 19, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Community leaders say they will oppose a plan today by a convenience store chain to expand its Severn outlet and add gas pumps, saying added traffic and the possibility of a fuel explosion endanger their neighborhood.

Cloverland Farms Dairy Inc. wants to build a 2,880-square-foot Royal Farms store, an adjacent 1,620-square-foot retail space and install two pump islands on about one acre at Routes 174 and 170, according to applications filed with the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement (PACE). A smaller Royal Farms store is on the property.

The addition of gas pumps would increase traffic at the intersection, which is already snarled during rush hours, said Mike Shylanski, president of the Greater Severn Improvement Association.

And the pumps and underground gas tanks would be too close to the football field at Severn-Danza Park, where children play, said Harvey Appelbaum, president of the Severn Athletic Club.

The two are scheduled to speak against the plan today at a public hearing before a county hearing administrator.

In June, Cloverland Farms Dairy applied for a special exception to allow the gas pumps in a general commercial zoning area and a variance to allow the self-service station within 300 feet of a park, the pump islands and canopy within 60 feet, and the parking spaces within 20 feet of a divided highway.

Last month, a county hearing officer denied a request by the company to add a pump island to a Royal Farms store on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena.

The possibility of an explosion should be enough to convince county officials that the pumps are a bad idea, Appelbaum said.

"Our football field backs up to where potentially the new filling station would be," he said. "If, in fact, we have an emergency or some kind of tragedy, you're looking at several hundred people that might be impacted.

"I have nothing against capitalism or them expanding, but it must be a point that is at least looked at," Appelbaum said.

Officials with the Baltimore-based company did not return calls yesterday.

In a July memorandum to PACE, the county Department of Recreation and Parks opposed granting a special exception and variance. The new store was to be 15 feet from the park property, infringing on a required 50-foot buffer, the memo noted. The current store is about 85 feet away.

But Cloverland drafted a new design that shifted the building 25 feet from park property and presented it to recreation and parks officials recently, said Joe DelBalzo, a zoning analyst with PACE.

The Department of Recreation and Parks won't oppose the project if the new plan is presented at today's hearing, DelBalzo said. "They believe that the 25-foot setback with the planted buffer the applicant is proposing is superior to a 50-foot unplanted buffer."

However, that leaves the question of traffic at the busy intersection, Shylanski said.

Exxon has a station on the southwest corner of the intersection, diagonally across from the Royal Farms site. Some residents may want a competing gas station, but Shylanski would prefer that the company find a new location. "It's really stretching things a little bit," he said of the traffic impact. "We would like to have Royal Farms in Severn, but why right next to our park?"

A PACE traffic analyst has asked that the company be required to do a new traffic study now that Route 100 is open, DelBalzo said.

The hearing officer has 30 days to issue a written ruling.

Today's hearing is at 10: 30 a.m. in County Council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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