A proposed Valvoline Instant Oil Change at the corner of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard is drawing ire from neighboring community associations that say an auto service station is not the best use of a space one association leader called a “gateway to the Towson area.”
“We’re not feeling real warm and fuzzy, to tell you the truth,” Peter Moulder, vice president of the Associates of Loch Raven Village, said of the proposal, which is moving through the county review process.
In a joint letter to the county’s Design Review Panel, Moulder and Janice Krach, president of the Knettishall Community Association, said the Valvoline is an “inappropriate usage of this property.”
Krach did not respond to a request for an interview.
Randy Kazazian, director of real estate for Mid Atlantic Lubes, the franchise proposing the Valvoline, said he understands the neighborhood’s position and is planning to work with neighbors to ease concerns.
“I get it, it’s people’s homes,” Kazazian said. “We’re not going to bully people, but we’re just going to have an open and honest conversation.”
There are already five auto service stations within a half-mile of the proposed location at 1641 East Joppa Road, the letter said. Moulder said that goes against guidelines for the county’s Commercial Revitalization Program, which encompasses the area and encourages a “diversity of uses.”
Neighbors also have environmental concerns, Moulder said, noting that the station would be less than 200 feet from the nearest houses on Yakona Road.
Those environmental worries, Moulder said, stem from an incident in which Yakona Road residents accused a gas station, which was on the same block of Joppa Road as the proposed Valvoline, of contaminating their properties from an underground tank leak. The Hess Corp. gas station settled with the community in 2012, purchasing and demolishing eight duplex buildings where homeowners were concerned about gasoline contamination. The area is now a park.
Because of those concerns, residents would prefer a “less intense use” of the property, Moulder said.
Kazazian said his business is in compliance with federal laws, and does not use underground tanks to house its oil, which is “recycled and carted off.”
The community leaders referenced Towson Gateway, now known as Towson Station, in their letter opposing the Valvoline. That project, at York Road and Bosley Avenue, drew intense community opposition when developer Caves Valley Partners proposed putting a Royal Farms gas station at the intersection. Amid pressure, the project changed course and is now slated to become a drive-through bank.
“Our residents often feel that they are given second class citizen status when compared to West Towson and other more affluent parts of our greater Towson area,” the letter said. “We unequivocally demand that the same consideration given to those communities with regards to the Towson Gateway project be extended to us.”
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Bryan Fischer, president of umbrella community association group Towson Communities Alliance, said his organization supports the community associations’ efforts to stop the Valvoline.
Other issues mentioned in the letter to the Design Review Panel include traffic and the aesthetic value of the existing building, a former 1st Mariner bank, which would be demolished.
Kazazian noted that the project would include improved landscaping and trees and said the company intends to erect an attractive building.
County Councilman David Marks, who represents the area, said he does not normally take sides publicly on issues coming before an administrative law judge, but hopes the judge “seriously considers the community’s perspective.”
He said if the project is approved, it will have more stringent design guidelines than similar projects elsewhere because of the revitalization zone in which it is located.
The zoning for the project requires an administrative law judge to grant special exception. A hearing will be held in November.
“We stand ready to discuss adaptive reuse of the existing building or redevelopment that is aesthetically pleasing, traffic neutral, environmentally friendly and sensitive to the surrounding businesses,” Moulder and Krach wrote in their letter.