Planned gas station arouses opposition Eldersburg residents say area has too much traffic, too little water

March 04, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With four carwashes and five gas stations within a mile, residents say Eldersburg hardly needs another. But the county's most populous region could get a gas-and-go near Liberty High School and the Eldersburg Business Center.

Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis III, owner of Tevis Oil Co., purchased a three-acre property at the northwest corner of Route 32 and Bartholow Road in December 1995 for $125,000. He plans a convenience store, gas station and carwash on the industrial-zoned site, which has public water and sewer.

The project will be similar in design to a 24-hour Jiffy Mart that Tevis opened last year on West Main Street in Westminster.

The county Board of Zoning Appeals approved the Eldersburg project a year ago, but restricted its hours, insisting that it be closed from midnight to 6 a.m. The project must be reviewed by the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

South Carroll residents argued at a development review meeting last week that the heavy traffic and low water pressure, coupled with the preponderance of convenience stores, were reasons to deny the project.

"We just don't need another carwash or gas station; we have too many now," said Joel H. Hassman, whose home overlooks the site.

Hassman opposes "a business with a flammable nature so near our homes."

The gas station will have four gasoline pump islands and two diesel islands. The adjoining convenience store will have a sub shop and an ice cream parlor.

A two-lane service road will parallel Route 32. At the west end of the property will be an entrance/exit onto Bartholow Road. The service road will be shared by an existing funeral home and any future businesses in a commercial area that will be called Cross Country Plaza.

Hassman and Donna Slack, his neighbor in the Parrish Park development of 113 homes, expressed their concerns last week at a subdivision advisory committee meeting, during which all county departments review the proposed development.

The county has recently agreed to accept citizen comment at the subdivision meetings -- a policy that takes effect in April.

Slack complained of the "intense use for a troublesome site" with high traffic and poor sight distance. A fatal accident at the intersection in October prompted the State Highway Administration to approve a traffic light, for which the developer will pay about $80,000.

An initial traffic study estimated 1,200 vehicles a day would patronize the business, an average of one every two minutes or more at peak hours.

The advisory committee is requiring a more in-depth traffic study to determine the business' impact on Route 32, on the nearby intersection of Routes 32 and 26 -- one of the county's busiest crossings -- and on traffic from Liberty High School, a short distance away on Bartholow Road.

"We want something more than the number of customers," said Bruce R. Waldron, county development review coordinator for the project.

Water pressure is so low at Slack's five-bedroom home that it often is difficult to take a shower.

"Anything built lower than us will take away more pressure," Slack said. "If you can't take a shower, how will they ever put out a fire? They should not proceed with this project until they can make it safe for everyone."

Waldron said several homes in Parrish Park were built too high above the ground. Water pressure will be a problem no matter what is built on the industrial property.

In September, members of the Sykesville Freedom Volunteer Fire Department found pressure dangerously low at several South Carroll hydrants, including one in the Eldersburg Business Center across the highway from the Tevis site.

County utility crews retested area hydrants and found the pressure satisfactory. The county's Emergency Operations Center also certified that the hydrants were adequate, said Waldron.

As for the need, Waldron said he was certain that Tevis was an astute enough businessman to know what the market will bear.

"If it is not needed, that's fine, because that means it will close in a month," Waldron said. "It is tough for the county to say, 'No, you can't come in here,' to a business."

Tevis said he plans to do another traffic study, but the county must address any water pressure problems.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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