SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 18, 2013

Gas station debate continues

Salem: Board continues discussion on appeal over occupancy permit

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — A long-simmering disagreement between the owner of a North Street gas station and the surrounding Salem neighborhood did not reach a resolution last night.

Salem’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted to continue discussion of an appeal from a Buffum Street abutter until its next meeting on May 15. Residents Helen and George Papadopoulos had appealed the building inspector’s decision to issue an occupancy permit to Haralampos Sidiropoulos, owner of the Shell station at 111 North St. (Route 114).

The quarrel began in 2008, when Sidiropoulos clear-cut the rows of oaks and maples acting as a natural buffer between the gas station and neighbors’ backyards.

Helen Papadopoulos, of 40 Buffum St., talked of light pollution and the “noise, sights and sounds” from the station that now decrease the neighborhood’s property values and quality of life.

Sidiropoulos “has acted in complete disregard for the neighborhood,” agreed Colin Young of 31/2 Buffum St.

Sidiropoulos’ lawyer, Joseph Correnti, argued that the issue should not be about siding with the neighborhood, but upholding zoning law. The property has been permitted as a filling station since the 1950s.

“The building inspector got it right,” Correnti said. “Did it make people happy? Apparently not. ... This petition should be denied, based on the law.”

The bulk of last night’s discussion was between three lawyers: Correnti, Assistant City Solicitor Robin Stein and Kevin Dalton, the Papadopoulos’ lawyer.

The trio had a dizzying back-and-forth over semantics about the zoning for the property — the terms “special permit,” “legal nonconforming use” and others were debated at length.

Ultimately, ZBA Chairwoman Annie Harris suggested that the board have Stein review the issue and write up an argument for the board for the May 15 meeting. The ZBA voted 5-0 for the continuance.

A 1970 ZBA decision requires the trees behind the gas station to be left standing as a buffer. Since cutting them down in 2008, Sidiropoulos has replanted at the property — but a “watered-down version” of an agreed-upon landscaping plan with less trees, Papadopoulos said.

Sidiropoulos has never wanted to “right the wrong,” and continually does the bare minimum, she said.

City Councilors Paul Prevey and Arthur Sargent also lobbied for the neighborhood.

Prevey, whose ward includes the gas station and its abutters, said Sidiropoulos has been unhelpful and unwilling to work with residents’ requests — he doesn’t care and doesn’t play by the rules, Prevey said.

Sidiropoulos has “flaunted every rule, every regulation,” Prevey said.

“For five years, he’s made us suffer, and I think it’s time now to change the path,” said Patricia Morrow of 16 Buffum St.

The ZBA will meet at 6:30 p.m. on May 15 on the third floor of 120 Washington St.

More than 30 people sat in on the ZBA’s hearing last night. Councilors William Legault and Todd Siegel were also in the audience but did not make comments.

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.