No decision yet on east Medford gas station
Medford City Council members expressed frustration Thursday after a nearly five-and-a-half-hour meeting to determine the fate of a controversial plan for a gas station complex at the corner of Springbrook and McAndrews roads.
More than four hours of the meeting consisted of council members, residents and attorney Stewart Foster, who represents project applicant Colvin Oil, rehashing project details and concerns presented in recent weeks to the city’s Site Plan and Architectural Commission.
At 11:15 p.m., Mayor Gary Wheeler and the council conceded that the project met legal and planning requirements of the city, and that upholding SPAC’s denial of the project would likely lead to an appeal.
The council ultimately tabled a final decision, calling for a 30-day extension to refine project details.
Neighbors of the proposed project have fought against the development, which would be built on a former home site that became available when the former owner passed away. Plans call for 5,000 square feet worth of structures, including a Circle K convenience store, a nine-bay fuel station and a car wash.
Residents collected more than 1,100 signatures on a petition opposing the project and flooded SPAC meetings in an effort to stop the development.
Foster, registered agent for Springbrook Corners LLC, said Thursday that the applicant was “more than willing” to mitigate any issues. Foster pointed out that the project had been designed to exceed city standards and blend with the neighborhood.
Wheeler said noise and the intensity of the project in a residential area were his biggest concerns.
“I’m really hung up on that car wash. It just seems like it’s too much. The sound. The noise of it. You’re sitting out in your backyard ... trying to have a nice little barbecue in your backyard, and somebody runs through the car wash and away she goes,” said Wheeler. “I have some issues with how much is being done and how many moving parts are involved.”
Council member Michael Zarosinski said he sympathized with neighbors.
“Putting myself in your position, would I be thrilled to have a gas station in my neighborhood? No. This site is obviously not in harmony with how you feel. I’m just trying to figure out how I can make a decision based on that that’s not going to get appealed at the next level,” he said. “What I would hope to do, then, is minimize the impact it’s going to have on the neighborhood as best I can.”
Council member Alex Poythress, who represents the east Medford neighborhood where the development is planned, said he wished he could find a legal way to deny the project.
“I have been following this from the minute that sign went up, because I started getting phone calls the minute the sign went up,” he said.
“I have gotten a lot of feedback. This is just a bad situation. It has been frustrating and difficult to watch from every angle from the very beginning. We have certain scope and purview of things that we can rule on, and I’m trying to find any way I can to ... rule in line with what is the consensus of the neighborhood.”
Following the meeting, Marelene Bell, whose mother lives near the project site, said her mother would leave her home of 15 years if the project was built.
“This is the worst possible site for something like this. The entire area is completely residential. It will be devastating if this goes through,” Bell said.
Foster reminded the council that it was the city, “through its own process in 2014, and not the applicant, that designated this as commercial.”
Foster said the project will not be the typical gas station complex. Within 10 years, the tree canopy, which Foster said would exceed city standards, would grow to 20 feet. Foster said the project was bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
“The applicant has tried to be sensitive to the neighborhood and ... has no problems with the additional conditions,” Foster said.
Homeowner David Collins was relieved the council didn’t “just approve” the project but said he dreaded a final decision slated for August, adding that residents felt “utterly helpless.”
City Council will continue discussion of the project Aug. 15.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at email@example.com.