Residents Concerned With Business’ Plan

Smith Oil wants to pump new life into the former Convenient Food Mart in Warwood by opening a gas station on the property that has sat vacant for more than 10 years.

Plans call for demolition of about half of the existing building at 1805 Warwood Ave. to make room for gas pumps with the remaining space to house a convenience store. They hope to be open by fall, according to Smith Oil Vice President Randy Smith.

The proposal has fueled concern among those who live nearby, some of whom voiced those concerns Monday before city Planning Commission members approved a special use permit for the gas station. Most of the objections dealt with increased traffic, but issues raised ranged from loitering to the potential for gasoline spills.

“I’d like to sell my house in a couple years, and I’m very concerned about the property values having a gas station right there,” said North 19th Street resident Dana Parshall.

Fellow North 19th Street resident Mele Mistovich said drug-related activity in the alley behind the store was a problem years ago.

Smith, who said he was waiting for approval of the conditional use permit before making an offer to the property’s current owner, Pete Schuetz, told the commission he understands the neighborhood’s concerns. But he said gas stations operate under federal regulations designed to prevent spills, and his company is serious about dealing with any illegal activity on its property.

“We will call the police if anything of that nature occurs,” Smith said.

Commission members approved the special use permit 5-0, with Public Works Director Russell Jebbia, Barry Crow, Michael Leo Jr., James Mauck Jr. and Councilman Don Atkinson voting in favor. Martha Wright, Thomas McCullough and John Clarke were absent, and Chairman Howard Monroe votes only in case of a tie.

Gas stations are only allowed in C-2, I-1 and I-2 zones and downtown without a special use permit, but the Convenient property is zoned C-1. To qualify for such a permit, it must meet three main conditions: A lot size of at least 7,500 square feet, and pumps must be located at least 25 feet away from a home, church or school, or 15 feet away from any right-of-way.

The planning commission still must approve Smith Oil’s site plan before construction may begin. Assistant Director of Economic and Community Development Tom Connelly said the company likely will need a pair of zoning variances, as well – one allowing the canopy over the pumps to extend to the 18th Street property line and another allowing parking spaces within the required front yard setback.