If Westminster's zoning appeals board approves the current design of Tevis Oil's proposed gas station, convenience store and sub shop, the street-scape along Main Street will be ruined.
The board, to be sure, faces a tough decision because it is in the city's best interest to fill in some of the gaps that have developed along Main Street. Yet filling these empty lots with just any development could hasten the demise of Main Street.
The zoning appeals board needs to address two questions: Does a 24-hour gas station and convenience store, with all of its activity and traffic, belong on this part of Main Street? And if it does, can its appearance and scale be modified so it is more in keeping with existing buildings?
The answer to the first question is not easy. Tevis Oil wants to build on a site that used to be a gas station, which basically operated during normal business hours.
Tevis Oil is proposing a much different type of operation that will guarantee activity around the clock. An establishment with cars driving in and out at all hours will fundamentally change the rhythm of the neighborhood. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to have an establishment that is more in keeping with the retail hours kept by other merchants on Main Street?
If the board approves the plan, however, it should demand that Tevis return to the drawing board and come up with a design that is in keeping with Westminster's character. The structure doesn't have to look like a historical building. But its size, materials and site plan should respect the existing ambience.
A good example of this is the Burger King restaurant in Annapolis, which unlike its highway cousins, conforms nicely to its surroundings; it's a prime model of a business discarding its cookie-cutter design to enhance rather than detract from an old city.
With the Sheetz store at Washington Avenue and Main Street, downtown Westminster already has one too many of these brightly illuminated, plastic-clad outlets. It doesn't need another.
Dean Camlin, head of the city's Historic District Commission, was on the mark when he told the board the proposed building is more appropriate on an isolated tract on a highway than in a densely developed and populated section of Westminster.