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The big corner lot at 14th Street and Maryland Avenue NE was a gas station before, and will be one again—-over a sustained neighborhood campaign to stop it.
The owner is David Schaeffer, a part of the taxicab triumvirate that has controlled quite a bit of property in the vicinity (including the soon-to-be-redeveloped Murry’s site, a new tire store on Benning Road, and Ward 5’s Walmart). The builder is Capitol Petroleum, owned by gas magnate Joe Mamo.
The opposition comes from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A, which has testified, sent letters, and even pushed through a rezoning of the area to kibosh the new gas station. Amorphous neighbors even put together a website: SHELL-NO.COM. And yet, after four years of protest, permits were approved earlier this week for a new four-pump gas station (or technically, the renovation of an existing one) that will be surrounded by trees and shrubbery.
Over the years, neighbors have objected to the use of public space around the gas station, and the construction of a gas station itself, given that it’s not the most friendly street presence. In the mean time, the lot has gathered trash and graffiti, as well as $167,000 in property taxes, since the small building on it was designated as blighted last year (the owners have appealed). Now, the ANC’s objections boil down to three:
- The permit was issued after the expiration of the Board of Zoning Adjustment order that allowed it (the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs took its time in reviewing the plans).
- Since permission was initially granted, the property got rezoned, and so now requires heavier duty review in order to accommodate a gas station.
- The permit includes an open median on Maryland Avenue, even though the BZA order explicitly required that it be closed in order to prevent potentially dangerous left turns from or onto Maryland Avenue.
A representative from Capitol Petroleum didn’t respond to emails, and hung up when reached by cell phone.
It would be a tricky site to build something else on, given the environmental complications that come with old gas stations. Sometimes, when you’re facing guys like Schaeffer and Mamo, there’s nothing to be done.