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Merrillville Council votes down gas station proposal

screenshot from Merrillville YouTube video
The Mar. 8 Merrillville Town Council meeting drew dozens of residents, many of them opposed to a proposed gas station.

The Merrillville Town Council has rejected a proposal for a new gas station at 73rd and Whitcomb. Council members Tuesday denied a request for a special exception for a Luke Oil station, following an unfavorable recommendation from the board of zoning appeals.

The proposal drew backlash from local residents, who worried about environmental and safety impacts, as well as the effect on property values. Anthony Timmons said that decades from now, he didn't want to have an abandoned gas station around the corner from his house.

"I implore the people from Luke, if they want to help the community, build where the old Strack's is at. It's a big community over there. We could use another grocery store. But we don't need no other damn gas station," Timmons told council members.

Terrance McMillon said he and his family moved to the Prairie Creek subdivision last September. "If a gas station had been there, I would've never bought that home there — never — because it's going to increase traffic. It's going to increase foot traffic, as well as automobile traffic," he said.

Council members also spoke against the proposal. But member Shawn Pettit reminded residents that the property is zoned for commercial development, and there are many types of businesses that wouldn't need the council's approval to move in. Council President Rick Bella was hopeful that the town could work with Luke Oil to find a more suitable location for the gas station.

In other business, the town council approved bonuses for town employees. Under a series of salary ordinance amendments, all full-time employees will get an extra $2,400 over the course of this year, except for police officers, who'll get $4,000. The council also bumped a part-time code enforcement officer to full-time status, with an annual salary of almost $34,000.