INDIANAPOLIS -- In a dash to beat the deadline, developers filed 21 applications to build new gas stations across Indianapolis before a zoning change became law last month, reported The Indianapolis Star.
The City-County Council passed an ordinance April 20 by a 26 to 0 vote that placed a moratorium on gas stations in areas zoned for small businesses, called C-3s. The zones generally permit light retail such as clothing and beauty shops and office services near residential neighborhoods.
City officials said that although none of these applications have been approved, most should be if they meet the basic standards of the old zoning code. If approved, they would raise the number of gas stations in C-3 zones from about 80 to more than 100.
A task force recently overhauled the county’s 40-year-old zoning code; it determined that the C-3 designation was outdated for “mini-mart gas stations,” many of which stay open all night. They now must be built in areas with heavier industry because of the traffic and noise they attract and lighting they need around the clock, said the report.
“These aren’t just a garage with a mechanic that closes at 5:00 p.m. like they were four decades ago when these zoning classifications were written,” John Bartholomew, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development, told the newspaper. “There’s a lot of activity all the time around them now.”
Parents are concerned that with schools in some of the zones, gas stations would be a threat to safety because of robberies.
Gurpreet Singh, the owner of a proposed strip mall that will include a gas station, called residents’ safety objections “baseless” and said he has met every city requirement. He said the gas station would not be open 24-hours and the other stores, possibly a barbershop and restaurant, would benefit the neighborhood.
It was unfair to assume that crime would come with the gas station, he added.
“If a neighborhood is nice like this one, you don’t expect criminals to show up,” he said. “You don’t become a criminal just because someone builds a gas station next door.”
Singh said he is willing to work with residents to address their concerns.
Scott Imus, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said the zoning change was “unfair.”
“Let’s let the marketplace decide where the stores should go,” Imus told the paper. “For a lot of people, convenience stores are where they go to get grocery staples like milk. These owners are entrepreneurs. If someone wants to invest money, they should not be deterred.”
Residents can appeal the permits 60 days after they are approved, the report said.
Click here to view the full Indianapolis Star report.