Mount Airy fails 2nd time to halt proposed gas station Frederick appeals board, Shell say fears unfounded

December 21, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy residents, the town government and the Sierra Club failed to persuade the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals last week to bar Shell Oil Co. from building a gas station in an area where opponents say a spill could seriously damage underground water supplies.

The decision was the second defeat for citizens. They have been trying for 10 months to stop the oil company's proposed gas station, carwash and convenience store on a .69-acre site at Routes 27 and 144 south of the Interstate 70 interchange.

The residents appealed to the zoning board after the Frederick County Planning Commission approved Shell's proposal in October.

Opponents could appeal the board's decision to Frederick County Circuit Court.

Three neighborhood residents argued that the planning commission had erred in approving Shell's plan because the planned septic disposal system is inadequate, traffic will create a hazard and the site is too small for adequate screening between the station and neighboring houses.

Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson, speaking for the Town Council, told the board he is concerned about traffic. He said he also fears gasoline could contaminate a town water supply well about a quarter-mile from the planned station.

"Mount Airy is pro-business, but we're pro-business to the extent that the business does not adversely affect a substantial number of our residents," Johnson said.

He said increased traffic on Route 27 would pose problems for the 60 percent of the town's commuters who use the highway daily.

Other opponents contended that travelers will want to use the gas station's restrooms. Shell representatives pledged to the planning commission that the restrooms will be closed to the public because of septic system constraints.

Greg Becker, group chairman of the Sierra Club for Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties, said the small site and heavy traffic on Route 27 create conditions for a gasoline tanker accident.

Shell representatives countered that their traffic studies showed minimal impact on the highways. They said the planning commission has determined that proposed trees and a fence are adequate to screen the neighboring properties. The oil company also said it will use double-walled gasoline storage tanks with leak alarms.

Appeals board members said the opponents failed to show that the planning commission hadn't considered the points they raised.

"The whole problem is, you don't want the station there, and I think they [Shell] have addressed all the issues," board Chairman John R. Lovell Jr. told the opponents.

Board members pressed Thomas A. Deming, a lawyer representing the three neighbors, to suggest solutions to the problems he raised. They asked Deming repeatedly what Shell would have to do to make the site acceptable for the planned station.

"In the case of this site, with that high volume use, I don't think it can be fixed," Deming said. He said the site could be used for other commercial purposes but is not appropriate for a gas station.

The site most recently housed a real estate office, which moved to larger quarters in Mount Airy last spring.

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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