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Judge Remands Gas Station Fight to City

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge has ruled that Annapolis failed to explain why a traffic study for a proposed gas station in the Bay Forest Shopping Center isn't necessary.

A two-year battle over a proposed gas station in the parking lot of the Bay Forest Shopping Center will continue until at least October.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge remanded the Board of Appeals' special exception approval back to the board with instructions for further proceedings. The special exception would have allowed the gas station to be built.

"The Board of Appeals will review the remand instructions at its public meeting in October," said city spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw. "This may result in further testimony before the Board of Appeals and will of necessity result in a new opinion and order after the Board of Appeals completes proceedings."

In August 2010, developers for  supermarkets  from the city to build a Stop and Shop gas station in the parking lot of the Bay Forest Shopping Center.

Opposition soon mounted from residents of the Fairwinds Condominiums located adjacent to the shopping center.

In December 2010, David Iams, vice president of Fairwinds' board, told Patch he had serious concerns about the project.  

“Georgetown Road is woefully inadequate to handle any increase in traffic,” said Iams, and the development plans don’t call for construction of any additional access points.

He also told Patch in 2010 that he was worried that discount gas prices offered to Giant shoppers would lure folks from as far away as Edgewater.

Fairwinds residents demanded a traffic study, but the Board of Appeals ruled against it in May 2011.

Fairwinds sued.

Assistant City Attorney Gary Elson told Patch in May that because the gas station received a, the traffic studies weren't required.

Fairwinds' lawyer Thomas Deming said not only was that argument "erroneous," but the proposal goes against the 2009 Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. The plan centers around preserving and enhancing the character of the community, maintaining a flourishing economy and promoting green initiatives.

The lawsuit finally came before Judge Ronald Silkworth this May, and he rendered his decision on July 24.

Silkworth wrote in his opinion that the Board of Appeals failed to provide any reason why a traffic study wouldn't be necessary so he ordered an explanation.

The judge also wrote that the board failed to explain how the special exception for the project wasn't contrary to the 2009 Comprehensive Plan. He wrote that "because the board's decision was based on an erroneous application of the law, the Court does not reach the question of whether there was substantial evidence to support the board's decision."

Despite nearly two years worth of delays, Giant remains hopeful about securing approval for the gas station, said spokesman Jamie Miller in an email. 

"We remain ready to collaborate with the Planning Board and the Annapolis community to find a solution that enables us to provide the one-stop shopping convenience of on-site fuel," Miller said.

Ray Sullivan, an organizer for Save Your Annapolis Neck, told Patch that residents just aren't looking for a gas station.

"We'd like to see something there that's more community-based," Sullivan said. "We'd like to see a family restaurant."

Janet Norman August 15, 2012 at 03:21 PM
We already have the Giant discounted gas, at the existing Shell station 2 blocks away, Forest Dr. and Bay Ridge. Owned by a local small business man. Why make a "special exception" which does not comply with its own rules and degrades the community, when the amenity is already available? Is the City afraid of what a traffic study might say?
Tim Hamilton August 15, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Janet...I am not a strong supporter of the Giant gas station, but I am not fans of the local Exxon and Shell stations. They may be locally owned, but they seem to take advantage of their location to charge higher prices. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that their rent or lease is high, that does not explain why they raise their prices during weather events. During the last power outage, they both raised their prices literally overnight. That speaks of gouging. And I won't patronize them because of that.
Nancy D August 16, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Don't need it, don't want it
JamesRich August 16, 2012 at 09:50 PM
It's not about whether people want or need a gas station. The real issue is the public safety hazard it would cause for all the pedestrians in the area. Not everyone drives and this is a major pedestrian thoroughfare for residents of not only Fairwinds, but of the residents of Victor Haven and of the Ben's drive area who use this route daily. The traffic issue has nothing to do with congestion or gridlock, it has to do with the unique features of Georgetown Road, the safety of our residents, and the phenomena of a "rewards-based" gas station. This is a very unique situation and cannot be looked at as if it was just one more gas station. Any traffic study done would not be definitive as it would only be guesswork as there is not enough data regarding the "destination" impact of this type of station. This is not a gas station like you would see at Sam's as it is not just a discount station, but is rewards-based. The truth is, it is incumbent upon the developer to prove that this station would not impact the surrounding area before issuing a special exception. Without the data being available showing that a "rewards-based" gas station would not negatively impact the area, there is no way the City should be able to grant this exception as it would be guesswork.
t bodor August 16, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I shop at Giant, but their corporate officers don't seem to understand that we don't want a gas station, or need another one. I am discouraged that Giant does not heed the apparent overwhelming opposition. I am just as happy to drive to Safeway for my groceries, and I am even happier to drive to the next intersection for my gas. Drop this plan now and save your reputation and money. Invest it in better quality products, including Maryland produce and meats. If not, perhaps Wegman's would be wise to move to Annapolis.

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