Planning Commission Recommends Approval of New Gas Station
Despite reservations, the Annapolis Planning Commission voted to recommend approval, as public opposition remains.
In an uneventful and unanimous vote, the City of Annapolis Planning Commission recommended approval of a special exception that would bring a new gas station to Bay Ridge Road.
The vote came down with four commissioners in favor, and one member abstaining from voting. The remaining two commissioners were not present at the Feb. 3 meeting.
While the vote was delayed for four weeks to allow a study of how “rewards based” gas stations affect traffic in an area, the commissioners ended up siding with the developers' assertion that traffic congestion would not be greatly affected.
The proposed gas station would be owned and run by the Bay Ridge Giant Supermarket, and would be located in the parking lot of the Bay Forest Shopping Center on Bay Ridge Road. Giant would offer discounts to customers who also shopped at their supermarket.
Even though each of the participating commissioners voted in favor of the special exception, there were still some reservations from members.
“Everything in my gut tells me this is wrong,” said Commissioner James Urban. “But I can't find anything I can hang my hat on [legally] to deny this application.”
Planning Commission Chairman David DiQuinzio echoed a similar sentiment in his closing remarks.
“I have very serious reservations about this,” said DiQuinzio shortly before the vote. “Another gas station is like driving that needle of oil addiction into our veins.”
Although both Urban and DiQuinzio shared a seemingly firm displeasure with approving the application, in the end both said there was nothing within the law that would allow them to deny the permit.
Current city law cites that a special exception permit must not be “detrimental to public health, safety, morals, convenience, or general welfare.”
When it came down to a vote, neither Urban or DiQuinzio seemed to believe there was enough evidence to deny the permit. During last month's meeting, however, the question of whether a gas station fits into the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan (ACP) was brought to the table. But, commission members said since the ACP is simply a policy document, and not binding law, it cannot be used as a reason for rejection.
Because public testimony ended last month, there was a smaller contingent of citizens at the Feb. 3 meeting, however, those who attended were clearly distraught with how the vote came down.
“It's very typical of these guys to come up with all these reasons why its bad, and how sympathetic they are for you, then they vote against you,” said Ray Sullivan of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation. “There were adequate reasons to deny this permit.”
Michele Cross, President of the Board of Directors at Fairwinds Condominiums, which sits adjacent the shopping center, was equally displeased with how the commissioners decided to vote.
“I thought the Planning Commission was for the people, to make sure these things don't go past us,” said Cross. “I'm very sad and disappointed to be living in the city right now.”
But even with the commission's final vote, the issue isn't put to rest.
The special exception will now go before the city's Board of Appeals, most likely in April, according to officials with the Department of Planning and Zoning.
Sullivan made it clear the citizens will be there to continue the fight.
“I can't imagine that we wouldn't be there,” Sullivan said.