WESTERLY — The Zoning Board of Review has unanimously approved variances to the municipal sign and zoning regulations sought by the owner of Ginger's Service Station on Oak Street. The board's action was the next step the owner needed to proceed with a planned underground fuel storage tank replacement and renovation project.

In all, the board granted more than 40 variances for the project on Wednesday, but close to 30 of them were driven by the municipal sign regulation which designates decals, warning labels, and digital price readouts on gasoline dispensers as signs. The sign regulations impose restrictions on the size, appearance, and number of signs allowed.

The business was established in 1941.

The gas station, which is owned by Eugene Gencarelli Jr., also needed lot dimensional variances. Most of them were necessary because the property, which is in the town's General Industrial Zone, is surrounded by residential properties. The regulations call for a 200-foot setback between gas stations and residences. Zoning Officer Nathan Reichert said the gas station zoning regulations seem focused on new gas stations, not ones that existed prior to 1998, when the regulations were updated.

"In this particular case we have an old one and we have to try to make the [regulations] fit the old gas station and it just simply doesn't fit. It's the size 12 foot going into a size 3 shoe," Reichert told the board.

The business needd to replace the underground storage tanks to comply with state and federal regulations. William Nardone, the lawyer representing Ginger's, said the tanks have been determined to be in good condition and there is no evidence of leaking. The three existing single-wall tanks will be removed and replaced with two 15,000 gallon double-walled tanks. The new tanks will be installed farther from the filling station building and property lines than the existing ones. The state Department of Environmental Management has approved the tanks and their planned location, Nardone said.

Board members focused their questions and discussion on safety and improving traffic flow on the property, which is bordered by Oak Street (Route 91) and Old Hopkinton Road.

Nardone said plans call for moving the service station's large sign to help facilitate the movement of vehicles into and out of the establishment. Installation of an additional gasoline dispenser and new signs to direct vehicles is also expected to ease congestion, he said. In the current configuration, cars waiting for gasoline are sometimes lined up on Oak Street. New plantings will also be established to help clarify the entrance location.

"The additional pump and extended canopy will in fact reduce congestion," Nardone said.

Board Chairman Walter Pawelkiewicz praised Gencarelli and his staff for working closely with the town staff to develop the plans. "It's a very unique property and I also think that as attorney Nardone mentioned, there has been a lot of work that has been done by the applicant, the applicant's consultant and the town ... this is the best product given the circumstances," he said.

Stephen Sweet, whose Oak Street residence is across the street from Ginger's, questioned whether a new gasoline dispenser would ease congestion at the gas station and also asked if the planned exit could be moved so that it is not directly across from his driveway.

Brian Morrone, vice president of Ginger's Service Station Inc., said the exit could not be moved because of the configuration of the property. In response to a question from Sweet, Morrone said the station will not extend its hours and will continue to close at 8 p.m.

"Because of the residential area we want to be understanding ... we want our neighbors to be happy with us," Morrone said.

The need for dimensional variances was created, in part, by the state's acquisition through eminent domain of service station property about 25 years ago to reconfigure Old Hopkinton Road, Morrone said.

The owners must now seek approval of preliminary plans by the Planning Board, which previously approved the master plans.

"The town staff met with us on several occasions and we worked cooperatively with them. It was very helpful in getting the project to this stage," Nardone said Thursday. "They took a very practical and logical approach to their analysis of our request."

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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