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Planning dispute may sidetrack restroom idea


A failure to communicate could prevent construction of a 24-hour comfort station in Sykesville.

Exasperated with the town Planning Commission, Allen B. Gillis said that he is scrapping his plans to build public restrooms at his service station along Route 32 at Sandosky Road.

"They just wear you dry with what they want," Mr. Gillis said Tuesday after his third meeting with the commission. "I am no closer to getting this project done than I was a year ago. Why go further? I am calling it off."

Mr. Gillis should have no complaint with the town, said James L. Schumacher, town manager.

"The town has nothing to do with it," he said. "He has not submitted plans to the county."

Without a detailed site plan, Carroll County will not approve construction. Mr. Gillis has submitted a rough plan, but decided against continuing his effort.

Anne Poissant, director of the county bureau of development review, said she met with Mr. Gillis March 14 and with his engineer June 1.

The meeting with Carroll Land Services, the engineering company chosen by Mr. Gillis, was "informational to make sure they were on track," said Ms. Poissant. To date, the county has not received Mr. Gillis' site plan.

"The town Planning Commission can't act until we have the plans," said Ms. Poissant.

Mr. Gillis said he presented his proposal for two public handicap-accessible restrooms, vending machines and an ice facility to town officials in February.

Mr. Schumacher wrote to Mr. Gillis Feb. 8 and asked him to comply with the county requirement for a site plan.

"We are totally in favor of the project, which is in conformance with the town zoning and master plan," he said.

Mr. Gillis met again with town and county officials in March and detailed his plans to build a roof over an existing concrete slab for the vending machines. On one side of the machines, he planned to build restrooms. On the other, he planned an ice house. He estimated the cost of the 13-foot-high structure at about $70,000.

"Ever since I opened here, the lack of restrooms open 24 hours has been a problem," said Mr. Gillis, owner of the only service station in town. When the station is closed, there is no access to the restrooms.

"We get a lot of travelers off [Interstate] 70. I wanted to give them and the town public restroom facilities," he said.

He has spent more than $500 for engineering plans and calls the project "ready to go." It cannot go anywhere without approval from the county, which has nothing to review.

"This should be a relatively simple project," said Ms. Poissant.

Several town commissioners took issue with construction above the underground gasoline tanks Tuesday and requested more revisions.

"The tanks have a 30-year warranty and are encased in concrete for 20 feet down in the ground and are anchored," Mr. Gillis said. "They are in a vault of steel with fiberglass liner and meet all EPA standards."

Helen Spinelli, county planner, said, "The current plan is in conformance with zoning and building codes, but it would make more sense not to build on top of gas tanks."

Despite the delays, the panel is "trying to work with you in any way we can," said Jonathan Herman, Sykesville commission chairman.

"There is too much information missing from the big picture," said Mr. Herman. "We need the county's comments and a landscape review."

Mr. Herman called construction on the slab a "drawback" and suggested moving the structure closer to Sandosky Road.

"That would force me to pump sewage uphill and eat up parking spaces for customers," said Mr. Gillis.

Mr. Gillis has a promise of $8,000 to landscape the property from Texaco, his supplier. Unless the building is under construction by Oct. 1, Texaco will rescind the agreement.

County approval is based on "a complete record of what is on the ground. The county and the town are willing to work with Mr. Gillis to produce the best site plan," Ms. Spinelli said.

"Unless something is the town's idea, they are stuck," said Mr. Gillis.

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