Thanksgiving has arrived, but by Thanksgiving, I believe Joy Oil will not be open. While Americans are taking time off of work, Joy will not be operating. The Joy Oil gas station on Pennsylvania Avenue North will not be selling gas or diesel fuel to motorists.
The Joy Oil gas station is a national landmark. It’s a gas station from the past.
According to Joy Oil, the crumbling structure was built in 1893 and originally operated as a gas station. It’s been in business more than 200 years. However, in 2014, repair work was slated to begin on the historic landmark. But the landmark commission — the local city government oversight board — refused to authorize the plan.
Now, the city will pay for the extra time it takes to fix up the historic gas station. There will be no rush to finish repairs. The cost of the repairs will be covered by a “road open” grant. And in addition to the headache, the gas station is an eyesore. Without sunshine, the building suffers. The added fumes are extremely unpleasant.
Under city ordinances, the commission on road construction must authorize nearly every project requiring excavation or road work. The commissioners would have to approve any project on Joy Oil that’s less than 3,000 square feet and involves 20 or more vehicles. The heritage commission would not approve such a project, as happened with this project.
The commissioners have made it pretty clear that they would not approve repairs to Joy Oil. If this was a mud field, I would be appalled at the disrespect they have shown this landmark. And I’m sure if it were a normal business they would apply pressure to start repairs. But because it’s a landmark, the Heritage Commission has not only rejected the repairs, but also doesn’t seem to want repairs to happen in the first place. It’s clear what’s going on here.
Why are we trying to de-historicize this historic landmark? I’ve encountered and met supporters who have suggested that a small gas station with only a few pumps doesn’t belong on this landmark property. While that is a valid argument, we have a lot of historic landmarks in the state. There’s the former State Police Headquarters which is currently used as a museum. The old state building on Washington Avenue in Greensboro which was once a nursing home. And many others. Does this mean we must dismiss all of them? I don’t believe so. But I do believe that it should be up to the marketplace to decide the fate of the Joy Oil Gas Station. People work here. People use this facility. People can choose what direction they want to live in. If they’re happy with this area, they should be able to make a living. And if they can’t, or they would like to move, I’m glad they can’t stay.
If the people of this community want this vintage gas station to stay, they should do everything in their power to reverse the Heritage Commission’s illegal decision. They should work with the city to come up with a plan to clean up the property so that others can be able to make a living. Unless the Heritage Commission steps in, no one is really going to help residents address the issue. This isn’t about politics. It’s about common sense. It’s about creating a vibrant economy for these neighborhoods. And it’s about protecting our state’s heritage.
Katrina Beck is a Republican State Representative for North Carolina’s 84th district.