Vienna Town Council OKs redevelopment proposal

This drawing shows a new gas station and convenience store that will be built at Maple Avenue, E., and Park Street, N.E., following May 21 approvals from the Vienna Town Council.

A derelict gas station, small accessory structure and two-story commercial building at Maple Avenue, E., and Park Street, N.E., in Vienna will be razed and replaced with a new gas station and convenience store under plans approved May 21 by the Vienna Town Council.

The 0.47-acre site is located at 200 Maple Ave., E., and 109 to 113 Park St., N.E., and has been used for gas stations since at least the mid-1950s.

Built in 1989, the existing gas station has been abandoned for nine years and has proved useful only for spectator seating at the town’s annual Halloween Parade. A majority of Council members favored improving the site, even if it meant waiving a couple of required parking spaces and continuing a decades-old use at the location instead of holding out for something more dynamic.

The applicants, Zee Investments LLC and TSSP LLC, did not advance the redevelopment proposal under Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning rules, under which voluntarily participating developers agree to provide town-sought amenities in exchange for increased building density.

The Council did have some leeway in approving the redevelopment, as the site’s three consolidated parcels occupied two different commercial zones. Although the previous gas station had been an approved non-conforming use, the applicants had to apply for permission because that use had been discontinued for more than two years.

Parking proved to be the application’s biggest sticking point. The applicants initially designed the site to meet the town’s requirement for 13 parking spaces, then had to whittle that down to 11 in order to accommodate larger sidewalks and landscaping areas mandated by the town.

Some Town Council members, remembering exceptions that led to the ongoing parking crunch across the street at the Vienna Marketplace commercial development, asked if the applicant could reduce the convenience store’s size to permit more parking. The applicants’ representatives said even if that were done, the site’s configuration would not allow for more parking spaces. They also contended that about half of the convenience store’s customers would leave their vehicles at the gas pumps, hence producing de facto parking spaces.

The site’s 3,300-square-foot commercial building was built in 1930 and received later additions.

The applicants will build all-new structures at the property, including a one-story, 2,520-square-foot convenience store and a new gas station at the site’s rear corner, with the pumps and new canopy located closer to Maple Avenue. The number of curb cuts will be halved from four to two, with one each being removed on Maple Avenue and Park Street.

The applicants will place overhead utilities underground, remove the site’s existing fuel tanks and the soil surrounding them, and install four new 10,000-gallon tanks. Those tanks are regulated by the state and federal governments, not Vienna, noted Town Attorney Steven Briglia.

Vienna resident Robert McCahill felt let down by the application.

“I didn’t envision another gas station,” he said, adding, “I think the town has a perfect right to expect something better at this spot.”

Town approval of the proposal was not unanimous, either at the Planning Commission or Town Council. The Planning Commission on April 25 voted 7-2 in favor of the rezoning and 6-3 in favor of the parking waiver. The Council approved both items by a 5-2 margin, with members Carey Sienicki and Douglas Noble voting nay in each case.

“Rezoning is a privilege, not a right,” Noble said. “It is not what we want in one of the primary corners in town.”

“We’re just super-sizing what we have now,” agreed Sienicki.

But the majority of Council members were eager to revitalize the site and reap the commercial-tax revenues that will follow.

“This has been an eyesore for way too long,” said Council member Linda Colbert..

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