Town manager: Barrington did not force BP station to close

Proposal for new Starbucks in Barrington still has hurdles to clear

By Josh Bickford
Posted 12/5/19

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha wants residents to know that the local government did not force the BP gas station on County Road to close down. 

"We support all local businesses," said Mr. …

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Town manager: Barrington did not force BP station to close

Proposal for new Starbucks in Barrington still has hurdles to clear

Posted

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha wants residents to know that the local government did not force the BP gas station on County Road to close down. 

"We support all local businesses," said Mr. Cunha. "The owner of the (BP gas station) property has decided to terminate the lease."

The manager's comments came in response to two letters to the editor in this week's Barrington Times. Residents Joseph Fulkerson and Barbara Flanders each penned letters criticizing the town after news broke that the BP gas station was closing down, and there was a plan to replace it with a new Starbucks.

"…it is just another blow by our 'friendly town leaders' to drive the elderly out of town," wrote Mr. Fulkerson, adding "What else can they do to us?"

Ms. Flanders wrote: "This is probably the stupidest idea this town has had on record."

In fact, the town has played a very limited role with the situation. 

The property owner, Getty Realty Corp., which is based in Jericho, NY, terminated a lease agreement with Lehigh Gas Wholesale Services, which manages more than a dozen Getty properties across the Northeast, including the one in Barrington. Lehigh officials notified the gas station and repair shop operators, Ken and Wendy Wajda, of the lease termination; the Wajdas were given until the end of November to clear off the County Road property.

"The fact that they're evicting the BP is unfortunate," said Mr. Cunha, "but we have no authority to stop that from happening.

"What we can control through boards and commissions is … what will happen there" next.

The local government will play a greater role in what happens in the future with the property at 223 County Road. At least three Barrington boards and commissions, including the technical review committee, planning board and zoning board, will review the plan for the new Starbucks coffee shop which has been proposed for the BP gas station property. 

The plan includes a drive-through lane that enters from County Road, winds around the rear portion of the property, and then empties back onto County Road. 

That drive-through lane may present some challenges to the developer, as town officials have stated that current subdivision and land use standards restrict drive-through lanes from exiting onto County Road.

"They're going to need variances," said Mr. Cunha. "This plan is not a fait accompli."

Mr. Cunha said certain portions of the plan may need to be adjusted. He added: "I don't know what their (the developer's) level of tolerance is for change."

In addition, the developer will need to demolish the existing structures on the property and remove the underground gas storage tanks. Mr. Cunha said the soil will need to be tested to ensure there has not been any leakage or contamination from the stored gasoline.

"They'd have to mitigate all that," Mr. Cunha said.

It is not clear whether the review of the Starbucks plan will be impacted by previous town rulings, where former town officials opposed the construction of drive-through lanes for restaurants along County Road. 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.