Owner seeks 24-hour opening

Gas station neighbors will face more noise, lights, opponents say

August 23, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Six hours.

In that span, the operator of a gas station in North Laurel says he could continue serving customers whom he expects to arrive in droves to get gas, a doughnut or a car wash.

But some civic activists contend that those six hours will mean more noise, more intrusive lighting and possibly more crime for the area.

At issue is a request by Joseph Duncan to operate the Exxon in the 9200 block of All Saints Road 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Howard County Board of Appeals is set to make a preliminary decision on the request at a work session at 7: 30 p.m. Thursday in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

A 1996 decision and order allowing construction of the gas station lets Duncan keep it open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

A lawyer representing Duncan said there is a need for his client to operate 24 hours a day.

"Customers have been asking him since the day he opened why he wasn't open all day," Francis R. Hunter Jr. said. "A lot of people go to work earlier than 6, and a lot of people are out late Friday and Saturday nights. All he wants to do is be reasonably convenient to his customers."

To support Duncan's application, Hunter introduced a petition of 1,176 names -- 857 of them with a Laurel ZIP code -- in favor of increasing the hours of operation.

"These are not transients," Hunter said. "These are primarily people in the area who are saying, `We want it open.' "

Dan Collie of North Laurel, who added his name and address to the petition, said his job as a field service representative for a medical equipment company requires him to work at night and return home between midnight and 6 a.m.

Concerns eased

"It would make it easier for me if [the gas station] were open all the time," Collie said. "Everything else is open there. I don't see why it would interfere with anyone."

Hunter said concerns about noise and lighting raised in 1995 by homeowners adjacent to the gas station have eased since Duncan planted 15-foot-tall trees between the gas station and homes.

"None of the people who live next to the station came out to object" at the Aug. 10 hearing, Hunter said. "None of the four people who testified can say they have the official capacity to represent the people who live next to the gas station."

But four members of the North Laurel Civic Association -- which opposed construction of the gas station in 1995 -- argue that every area homeowner is represented by the group. The opponents say extending the hours would affect adjacent homeowners who endure the noise and lighting during the day and evenings.

Petition questioned

"Those people should be able to have some rest," said Myrtle Coon, who said she is close friends with one family that lives next to the gas station. "Twelve to 6 is really pushing it."

Association President Tom Flynn dismissed the applicant's petition, calling it flawed because it only asks people who support the request to sign it.

"A true petition should've given choices. `Do you want 24 hours? Yes, no or maybe?' " he says. "Maybe one thousand people said yes, but two thousand could have said no. But there's no way of knowing that because of the way the petition is phrased."

At the hearing, Flynn said, it appeared that the board was going to vote in favor of the expanded hours, but two members -- Chairman Jerry L. Rushing and member James Pfefferkorn -- seemed to have second thoughts and postponed a decision until Thursday.

Coon said she is optimistic that the board will deny the request.

"I certainly hope that the board sees and recognizes the citizens who are involved in this," she said. "We're the ones who have to deal with it."

Hunter said the cards are stacked in his favor.

"I think I have an extremely strong case," he said. "I don't feel there's credible testimony from the opposition."

Pub Date: 8/23/99

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