WestClay residents worry proposed gas station could lead to health problems, increased crime

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Several residents in the Village of WestClay are attempting to stop the construction of a gas station they say came as a surprise to them but developers say has always been among plans for the neighborhood.

Brenwick Development is petitioning the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals for four variances for the construction of a Family Express convenience store and 12-pump gas station on 1.5 acres at 2407 Harleston St. The BZA will hear the matter at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Developer Tom Huston of Brenwick Development said a gas station has been a permitted use on the site since the city adopted plans for the neighborhood in 1999.

“The only issue between us and (Carmel’s Dept. of Community Services) is the location of the building and pump island on the site,” Huston stated, adding that he was “totally blindsided” that DOCS did not support the site layout, which he compared to the GetGo on Illinois Street, as initially presented.

But many people who live near the planned gas station have concerns that go beyond the layout. KeepOurVillageClean.com, a website launched in opposition of the gas station, lists environmental risks, traffic, an increased possibility of crime and falling home values as concerns. More than 1,300 people have signed a petition on change.org against the project.

The website also outlines potential health concerns caused by exposure to benzene, a carcinogenic chemical in gasoline. Jackie Phillips, a three-year resident of the neighborhood who lives on the same street as the proposed gas station, said she is concerned about impacts of vapors and leaks from storage tanks and cars refueling, especially with The Stratford senior living community next door and Primrose School nearby.

“This shouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard, regardless of social status or type of home or neighborhood,” she said. “It’s not acceptable for people to live in such close proximity to negative health implications and environmental impacts. If this gas station goes in, it sets the precedent that a gas station can go into any neighborhood or (near) any school.”

She also said previous communication from the HOA board led her and many neighbors to believe a small convenience store alone was the plan for the site.

“The only two places we could remotely find anything about gas was in a 2017 and 2018 end-of-year letter where it was buried and said ‘Family Express,’ but that alone doesn’t imply gas station,” she said.

Huston said developers never made the plan to include a gas station a secret. He said the original 1999 master plan for the Village of WestClay included a gas station in Village Center and that the planned unit development ordinance for the neighborhood always listed a gas station as a permitted use. In 2005, developers decided to move the station to the UpTown area of the neighborhood.

Huston said the Family Express convenience store with gasoline sales was announced at the 2017 annual meeting of residents and that a Family Express press release announcing the new location was sent to all residents in October 2018. He said no residents expressed concern about the gas station until recently.

“The level of misunderstanding with respect to the prospect of gasoline sales in the Village is not a function of the failure of the developer to disclose its rights and intentions,” Huston stated. “What we confront are objections from people who do not seem to like the entirety of the project (developer George Sweet) and I planned and developed, which from the very beginning has included plans for a gasoline station. Our view has always been that you cannot pick and choose between those parts of a development plan you like and those you do not. It is a package deal. We believe that most residents are happy with that deal.”




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