A bid to bring self-serve fueling stations to Arlington ran out of gas on the Town Meeting floor Monday, leaving the town as one of the last in the state in which an attendant must pump gasoline for customers.
By a voice vote, Town Meeting voted against a proposal to begin allowing self-serve gasoline stations in Arlington after the lead sponsor for the proposal, Town Meeting member Carl Wagner, changed his mind citing unintended consequences of altering the local law.
Wagner said that his proposal to bring self-serve gasoline stations did not do enough to keep full service from disappearing completely at gas stations, and also would not prevent “megastations” offering self service from moving into Arlington.
“It needs more work,” Wagner told Town Meeting, before urging the body to reject his proposal.
Arlington banned self-service at gasoline stations in 1975 and is one of a dwindling number of towns in Massachusetts that require full service at the pump. Weymouth, Milford, and Upton also do not allow self-serve gasoline stations, but the state fire marshal’s office, which oversees plans required for all self-serve stations, does not keep a list of which communities require full service and was unaware if any others ban self-serve stations.
By a majority vote, Arlington Selectmen had backed Wagner’s original proposal to change the local laws and allow self-serve gasoline, said Selectmen Chairman Dan Dunn. In the board’s report to Town Meeting, Selectmen said the town’s ban on self-service gasoline sales is out-dated and no longer sensible.
“Technological advances since the introduction of self-service gasoline sales in the market have reduced safety hazards associated with the practice,” the board reported. “Removal of the ban will make Arlington competitive with surrounding communities that offer self-service gasoline sales.”
The proposal to bring self-serve gasoline to Arlington had drawn some mixed reviews from local service stations and motorists. Some local service station workers said motorists are often careless at the pump, which leads to accidents including people driving away with the pumps still in their tanks. But others have said allowing self-service would improve the ability local gas stations to compete with those in surrounding communities.
Wagner said he thinks selectmen voted correctly on the idea that Arlington can move forward from a 1950s-style law to having self-service. But Wagner said after the board had initially voiced its support for the change, he learned from town inspection workers that if his proposal was approved by Town Meeting, Arlington would have to allow stations that would have no full serve gasoline and there would be no limit on the size of gas stations.
“Although some of you might think I’m a crazy person for wanting to have self-serve, I think everybody would probably like to have full serve, self-serve, and not have a change in the feel of our gas stations,” Wagner said. “So I ask you to resoundingly vote no.”
Wagner said he has been pleased to learn that other processes underway in the town, including a comprehensive review of local zoning bylaws, could revisit the question of allowing self-serve gasoline.