By Erica Madison
Owners of the Valero gas station at 1310 Central Avenue submitted an application for an amendment to their use permit, with several members of the community voicing their support for the changes.
“The station is a convenience, not a detriment,” said an Alameda resident.
The gas station has been around since 1954. At the time, the area was zoned as a commercial district. In 1974 the area was rezoned as a residential neighborhood, and businesses in the area became legal nonconforming. As a legal nonconforming use, the station is not allowed any type of expansion. If such an expansion is desired, Valero has to submit amendments to their use permit to the Planning Board. Since 1980, changes to the use permit have occurred six times. Each of the permits regarded changes in operation hours and services rendered. Since the area is legal nonconforming, each change to the use permit has resulted in a negotiation between the Planning board and the gas station.
The current Valero owners Mr. Saidian and Mr. Zektser acquired the station in 2002. In order to get around the no-expansion rule, Valero’s newest application offers to cut back on operating hours in exchange for selling diesel fuel and having auto repair from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Valero is open 72 hours a week; under the new plan, the gas station will reduce their hours one hour per day to 67 hours a week. They will open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday in order to extend their services. By cutting hours back, they are balancing hours and services in order to comply with the use permit.
Several neighbors in the area attended the Planning Board meeting in support of the change of service and operating hours. They told the Planning Board that the services where beneficial to the area. Although the support overwhelmed the opposition, there were a few residents against the change. Two of them submitted a letter to the Planning Board:
“We are strongly opposed to the extension of auto repair hours. The proposal to allow auto repair on Saturday amounts to a twenty percent increase in the number of days each week we have put up with the station’s noise pollution”, said Cynthia and Andrew Gold Smith.
“Every 2-3 years when there are new members of the City Council or the Planning Board, the current owners re-apply for additional hours or services,” said Philip Gravem.
The Planning Board decided that adding diesel fuel and Saturday auto repair was not an amendment of the use permit or an expansion of services.
Board member John Knox White made a motion to approve the application without reducing the hours of operation, and the Board unanimously approved it.
Knox White also suggested that the gas station deserves more leeway in setting up their hours of operation. He encouraged the owners to work with the neighbors who submitted complaints, in order to come up with a resolution that would allow them to submit another application to make their own operating hours without having to negotiate with the Planning Board.