Zoning case's wrap-up at hand

Panel due to hear final arguments on plan for gas station, carwash

December 21, 2007|By June Arney | June Arney,Sun reporter

County Zoning Board members will hear final arguments next month on a plan to build a gas station and carwash in Waverly Woods Village Center in western Howard County.

"We look forward to wrapping it up," said Rick Levitan, co-owner of Convenience Retailing LLC, who has been working on the project about two years.

Levitan's company has gas stations in Dorsey's Search and Owen Brown villages in Columbia, and in Pikesville.

During a hearing last week - the fourth on the matter - Joseph W. Rutter Jr., a principal with Howard County-based Land Design & Development Inc. who testified for the opposition, said Marriottsville Road is a more appropriate location than the village center for a gas station.

Rutter argued that there has been a trend away from placing gas stations deep within village centers. But even if one is going to be built at one of the centers, the appropriate place is not at the "monumental entrance," he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Levitan disagreed.

"Gas stations in village centers and shopping centers is a trend that strongly began in the late '70s and continues today," he said. "You want a draw factor. It's all about one-stop shopping."

Jonathan Genn, an attorney representing the majority owner of Waverly Woods Development Corp., has said that the three owners of the corporation that developed the community do not consider including a gas station in the village center consistent with their original vision.

Those developers have said that if Convenience Retailing withdrew its zoning appeal to build a station at Warwick and Birmingham ways, Waverly Woods Development would be open to the construction of a gas station by them or someone else on property it owns on Marriottsville Road, Genn said.

Current zoning allows a traditional restaurant on the site where Convenience Retailing wants to build a service station that would include a small snack shop. Construction of a fast-food restaurant at that location would require a conditional-use permit, according to county zoning officials.

The county Department of Planning and Zoning has recommended approval of rezoning to allow the gas station.

In earlier meetings, residents testified in favor of the project. Last week's meeting offered the project's opponents a chance to present their case.

Gerard McIntyre, who has lived in Waverly Woods for six years, testified that 52 people he polled were in favor of a gas station nearby but that 51 of them did not want it at the proposed location.

"I've seen some of the gas stations that Mr. Levitan has built," McIntyre said. "They're good gas stations. I would like to see a gas station, and so would my neighbors, on one of the arteries, not in Waverly Woods."

Dennis Avgerinos, another Waverly Woods resident, said many of his neighbors are opposed to the project.

"We feel like we moved into that community as a golf community," he said. "We wouldn't expect to see a gas station in such close proximity. I don't care how many bushes and trees you put around it, it's difficult to hide a 30-foot canopy."

Many residents would prefer a restaurant on the site, he said.

The village center's developers have said they would not oppose a stand-alone restaurant, which is an acceptable use under current zoning and in keeping with the original vision.

Avgerinos criticized what he called "essentially a scare tactic that if we don't put a gas station there, a fast-food restaurant will go there."

Levitan has said that if the gas station is not allowed, a fast-food restaurant is likely to be built on the site because it was part of the original plan.

Avgerinos said a gas station at the proposed location would bring traffic from Route 99, Interstate 70 and possibly U.S. 40 into the community.

"We've been able to survive without a gas station there for many years," he said.

Final arguments are scheduled for Jan. 9.

june.arney@baltsun.com

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