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A Gas Station by Any Other Name. . .


Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis III has gone to extraordinary lengths to promote his proposed gasoline station and convenience store development on the Farmer's Supply property in the heart of Westminster. He has purchased a full-page ad explaining his plan. Mr. Tevis even invited people to attend a "public hearing" where he gladly fielded questions about his project.

If other developers followed Mr. Tevis' example, they wouldn't be so universally despised. When Mr. Tevis initially proposed his gasoline station and convenience store project, he proposed constructing a rather utilitarian-looking project. To his credit, Mr. Tevis showed his proposal to city planning officials and business leaders and solicited their opinions.

After listening to some informed criticism, Mr. Tevis had his designer rework the plan. The redesign produced substantial improvements in the appearance and siting of the gasoline pumps. Instead of relying on metal and plastic, the traditional materials for convenience stores, the reworking produced a restrained design calling for extensive use of brick, in keeping with the appearances of surrounding buildings. The new plan also called for extensive landscaping and small signage that would soften the project's otherwise harsh appearance.

Despite all these refinements, however, Mr. Tevis has not resolved the fundamental problem with his project: It is still primarily a gasoline station that will operate 24 hours a day. Placing a service station in this strategic location will bring a heavy volume of automobile traffic into the core of Westminster, which should be pedestrian-oriented. Downtown's strength is that it doesn't look like the Route 140 strip. The town's business district needs more pedestrians. This project will only serve to drive them away.

Mr. Tevis argues that his project is better than leaving the parcel in its current abandoned condition. His contention may be true if that is the extent of the comparison. The more appropriate question: Is a gasoline-oriented retail center the best use of this property? Clearly, it isn't. Mr. Tevis deserves credit for proposing one of the most thoughtfully designed gasoline stations in the county. He has set a standard that others should try to match. But his project belongs on a more appropriate parcel.

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