HOLLYWOOD, Md. (February 13, 2020)—By a narrow vote of 4-to-3 the St. Mary's County Planning Commission denied the concept site plan for a 7-11 that was proposed to be built across from Leonardtown Middle School at the intersection of Route 5 and Route 244 at its Feb. 10 meeting.
It was the third meeting in which residents continued to protest the project, saying it would create traffic problems at an already stressed intersection as well as bring in problems with increased crime.
One board member said they believed the project would exacerbate traffic safety.
"Whatever deflects from the safety of this project is under our purview," said Joe Van Kirk, who doubted the applicant's claim that the traffic leaving the 7-11 would only use Route 5.
Martin Siebert, board member, said he sympathized with concerns from the neighbors, but a denial by the planning commission would almost certainly be reversed.
"We can all say 'no,'" Siebert said. "But it would be reversed like that by the appeals board, and if not by them, then by the Circuit Court.
"I'm just not seeing a viable reason to say no to this that will stick."
Board member William "BJ" Hall said he was concerned the impact of proliferating gas stations would have; two other 7-11s are proposed, one in Callaway and the other across from Great Mills High School where a gas station once stood.
He said that intersection did not have much traffic anyway.
"How many empty gas stations are we going to have because of this?" Hall asked. "I don't think we should approve things that will cause empty buildings to sit around our county.
"It bothers me, I'm just a regular citizen, just to hear that my voice doesn't matter when a business wants to come into my community."
Board member Joseph Fazekas said the planning commission should consider the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law.
"The applicant did very good at meeting all the letters of the law," Fazekas said. "But if it's something the community doesn't want it doesn't have to go through.
"We are supposed to listen to the citizens; does it meet the intention of the county's comprehensive plan."
The applicant's representative's, Bohler Engineering, had a rebuttal earlier in the hearing Monday night before the vote, arguing that the concept site plan could be amended to address concerns and that the convenience store and gas station combination would have a fence around it as a buffer from the neighborhood.
Board Chair Howard Thompson said since the Town of Leonardtown was working to expand its water and sewer plant capacity, that, coupled with the site's commercial zoning, meant a much larger development could be built on that corner.
"They're [the applicant] using a small portion of this land," Thompson said. "There could be a lot more on that site."
Later that meeting the board approved the concept site plan for the 7-11 in Lexington Park and moved the hearing for the Callaway project to March.
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