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May 16, 2013

Fight over Salem gas station ends

SALEM — The North Street gas station war is over.

A battle that began nearly five years ago with the sound of chainsaws felling trees ended quietly last night when Helen and George Papadopoulos of Buffum Street withdrew their appeal of an occupancy permit issued to the owner of a gas station at 111-113 North St. (Route 114).

An attorney for the couple informed the Zoning Board of Appeals of the action, but gave no reason for ending a legal fight that went from city boards to the City Council and, eventually, Superior Court.

The Salem News was not able to reach the Papadopouloses, who did not attend the meeting.

This fight began in the fall of 2008 when Bob Sidiropoulos, who was building a new station on a site that had a gas station since the 1950s, clear-cut a few dozen oak and maple trees that formed a natural buffer between his station and neighbors.

Not only did the action anger residents, but it violated a special permit issued in 1970 to a previous owner, which required the trees to be left untouched in the rear of the property.

After the trees were gone, neighbors complained of noise, bright lights and other problems that they said diminished their quality of life.

Sidiropoulos has replanted trees and shrubs in the buffer zone and made other improvements, but the Papadopouloses contended he had not met all the terms of an agreement. They also alleged that a small addition to the rear of the station was not legal.

The City Council stepped into the fray in 2009 when it revoked a permit to store gasoline at the station in retaliation for the tree cutting and what they contended was slow action by the business owner to fix the problem. Sidiropoulos went to court, where he argued that the license revocation shut down a partially constructed Shell station that represented an investment of more than $2 million.

In 2010, a judge ruled that the council had no right to revoke the storage license as punishment for cutting down the trees.

The Papadopouloses withdrew an appeal of an occupancy permit that Building Inspector Tom St. Pierre issued in February.

The station opened a few weeks ago.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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