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    Va. County Attempts Reducing Number of Abandoned Gas Stations

    Removal of old fuel tanks, canopies and car washes considered as legal requirement.

    YORK, Va. -- About 50,000 cars travel through the intersection of Route 17 and Lakeside Drive each day in York, Va.. Yet the gas stations on three of the four corners there are closed.

    Meanwhile, a Wawa with eight fueling islands is under construction about a mile to the north of the intersection. Five of the 20 gas stations along Route 17 in York County are vacant. Some of them closed years ago and have become eyesores and targets for graffiti, according to a report in the Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press.

    In Newport News, some gas station owners have to agree to remove old fuel tanks, canopies and car washes if their business closes. York officials are looking at the same approach to try to reduce the number of empty gas stations that dot the county. "In our community, we just do not want to put up with this neglect, this abandonment," said Jim Burgett, chairman of the York County Board of Supervisors. "It amounts to abandoning a property."

    Earlier this year, the city started to require some gas station owners to remove fuel tanks, islands and canopies from gas stations that have been closed for nine months. City officials began to attach that requirement to use permits. Those requirements don't affect a gas station's main building. They don't apply to gas stations that already have been built. And they only can affect stations built on land where the city's zoning ordinance requires a city permit.

    A group of county officials and business owners has worked for months on a plan to help businesses along Route 17, lure new businesses to vacant buildings and add landscaping to make the area more attractive. That committee will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors next month. "It's a very interesting approach, and we're interested in seeing the wording of their condition," said Mark Carter, York's zoning manager.

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