The Annapolis Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday night green lit a Giant gas station in the Bay Forest shopping center, concluding a series of meetings on the contentious issue.
Board members ended months of debate and discussion by approving a permit that will allow Stop and Storage Supermarket Company LLC, Giant’s parent company, to build a service station next to the Wachovia Bank in the shopping center.
The gas station will allow Giant shoppers to redeem points at the pump for a discount on their gas. But some local residents said they fear this will give the Giant gas station an unfair advantage over the several other gas stations in the area and create an additional traffic burden on the already congested region.
Board member James Gregory said he had heard their concerns, but did not believe they were well-founded. Gregory said locating a gas station within the shopping center would actually decrease traffic, because those who use the pumps are already there to shop at the Giant.
Decreasing the number of trips is the essence of smart growth, Gregory said.
“I think a lot of the arguments being made are actually counter to what will be the end result,” he said. “I understand why they’re upset, but I just don’t agree with their arguments.”
No public comments were taken at Wednesday's meeting, as it was a continuation of a public hearing in April that was postponed due to lack of a quorum. But after the meeting, David Iams, vice president of the Board of Directors for Fairwinds Condominiums, said he believed the city officials had ignored their constituents.
“The city wants to make money, but they’ve got business blinders on,” Iams said. “They’re taking money from the small guys and giving it to big business, at the same time creating a safety hazard for the people they represent.”
Iams said the traffic studies conducted exhibited a “glaring lack of due diligence and adequate study,” and did not examine how a discount-based gas station would affect Georgetown Road, which feeds into the shopping center.
Chairman of the board, Christian Elkington, said he was initially concerned about the water-runoff potential of putting a gas station on a large parking lot like the one at Bay Forest. But planners had come back with modifications that alleviated his concerns, he said.
The approval Wednesday included 19 such modifications that were added throughout the course of the proposal's trip between various city boards.
“It’s a good plan," Elkington said. "… They’re going to actually add more than they were originally requested to do. From an environmental standpoint, I can find no down side to them actually planning a giant parking lot.”
Board member Yolanda Yancy cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she felt there were already enough gas stations in the area, citing six within a 3-mile radius of the shopping center.
“These other gas stations would suffer because Giant can issue those (discount points),” Yancy said.
Naushad Ali, the owner of an Exxon gas station about a quarter-mile from the Giant, said he would likely lose his business and possibly even his home as a result of the new gas station.
Ali said the competition in the area was already rough. But with another big contender offering lower prices, it will upset the equilibrium, making it nearly impossible for smaller gas stations to earn a living.
“For me, this is a disaster,” he said.
Iams declined to comment on whether he or other residents opposed to the new gas station would take any further action after Wednesday’s meeting. He said they would review the written decision once it has been issued and decide what to do then.
The Board of Appeals approved the special-exception permit Wednesday by a 2-1 vote with Chairman Christian Elkington and James Gregory voting for, and Yolanda Yancy voting against.