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Leonardtown 7-Eleven Appeal Plan; Case Continued Through November

LEONARDTOWN, Md. — Applicants who are seeking to place a 7-Eleven gas station near Leonardtown Middle School are not going anywhere without a fight.

Back in Feb., the St. Mary’s County planning commission voted down the project that would go onto a portion of the 5.4-acre parcel of land at the intersection of Route 5/Medleys Neck Road. The vision of the applicant, Cecil’s Mill LLC, was met with stark criticism at the public hearing which was held back on Feb. 10.

After the commission voted down the project, the applicant found themselves appealing their case with the county’s Board of Appeals. But with over three hours of testimony on the books already at their July 30 meeting, the appeals board moved to continue the hearing through November, and tentatively for another night which they set aside in December if the first two nights aren't sufficient.

And judging by the 34 letters of public comments that have been received by the Board of Appeals, along with comments made at the initial public hearing, several people have clear problems with the project.

Of those who expressed concerns was St. Mary’s County Public Schools’(SMCPS) Superintendent Dr. James Scott Smith, who asked in his letter that the board “consider the safety of [SMCPS] students and staff” when making decisions on a project that is close to a school.

“It would be our expectation that commercial development adjacent to any of our schools would not impact our ability to safely transport students in a timely manner to and from school,” Smith’s comments read. “Additionally, depending on the impact, please note that SMCPS may be required to alter procedures related to student supervision and/or student safety based on the results of any additional commercial development near schools.”

While SMCPS said in their letter that they don’t typically comment on commercial developments, several nearby residents voiced plenty of other concerns.

“I am submitting a list of reasons why this comprehensive zoning ordinance should continue to be blocked as it was voted down on [Feb. 10]. The reasons were valid then and now…” Maureen E. Fortin, a nearby resident, said in her letter to the board. “How would you like your home of many years and generations suddenly be in the middle of a gas station and convenience store through no choice of your own[?]”

However, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that out of those public comments, a handful of people were in favor of the proposed plan.

“Rules and regulations should apply equally to everyone,” Mary Jean Orwig of Hollywood, Maryland said in a letter. “The two 7-Eleven sites (Leonardtown and Great Mills), under review, met all county and state rules and regulations. However, the Leonardtown site vote was based on emotion rather than sound mind.”

It can be noted that near the conclusion of the hours of testimony, the county’s director of public works, John Deatrick, acknowledged that the planned gas station did meet the current requirements.

Even though he acknowledged previously signing off on the project when asked by the applicant’s attorney, Chris Longmore of Dugan, McKissick, and Longmore LLC, Deatrick still mentioned his concerns with traffic backing up during peak hours and negatively impacting school bus cues.

The continuation of the hearing is currently set for the Nov. 12 Board of Appeals meeting.

Contact Zach at zach.hill@thebaynet.com

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