Leonardtown, MD — A new apartment complex in Leonardtown may be getting a fourth floor after all. The Leonardtown Planning and Zoning Commission approved at its May 16 meeting the fourth floor for the Hamptons of Leonardtown, which sits between Fenwick Street and Route 5. The approval is contingent on state acceptance of a new plan for an access road to Fenwick Street.

The planners last year approved the new project with only three stories after the developer. Farhad Saba of the Waldorf-based Saba Group LLC, was unable to secure a right-of-way for the Fenwick Street access. The town appeals board had approved the fourth floor, but that was contingent of securing the access road.

The original plan was to purchase a right-of-way over land owned by the Foxwell Condominium Owners Association, a development adjacent to the Hamptons. But the association refused the right of way and several of its members opposed the project at town hearings.

Town Administrator Laschelle McKay reported at the May 16 meeting that an alternate proposal had been worked out. Instead of having above ground utilities over a wetlands, the developer had decided to bury the utilities and put the access road over the utilities in the same right-of-way. That new plan will need the approval of the Maryland Department of the Environment and the State Critical Areas Commission. McKay said the initial comments from the state had been favorable.

The town had sought the Fenwick Street connection to support downtown businesses and because of the perceived problems with the project’s Route 5 entrance. That entrance sits across the street from the entrance the Academy Hills development, whose residents say it’s a nightmare trying to get out in the morning. Traffic is heavy along that stretch of road in morning and evening rush hour.

Saba told the planners that the state controlled the intersection and they had declined a traffic light there and also a right in, right out only movement. Saba said with the Fenwick Street access he doubted many people would try to make left-hand turns onto Route 5 but would instead use Fenwick Street.

With the fourth floor Saba will be able to afford putting in an elevator as well. He said that had caused him to receive a number of inquiries from people he described as “slightly older” interested in his project, which is anticipated to open next year.

The option of a fourth floor for multi-family housing is relatively new for the town. It was approved by the council when a project meets certain requirements for amenities that would allow for a density bonus.

At the planning commission meeting, member Jack Candela showed that the idea still isn’t universally accepted in town. “I can’t visualize a small town with four-story buildings. The town has never had a four-story building to my knowledge.”

Candela, however, voted in favor of the contingent approval for the fourth story along with the rest of the commission with the exception of member Christy Hollander, who abstained. Hollander is an engineer on the staff of the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission.

The fourth story will allow the developer to construct 142 units instead of the 119 approved for three stories.

The contingent approval by the planners will be forwarded to the town council for a final decision.

In other business at the May 16 planning commission meeting:
• Approved a concept site plan for Orchard Hills on Johnson Lane near the Hamptons. The project contains four townhouse units and is being developed by W.M. Davis.
• Approved a revised monument sign for the Clark’s Rest entrance.
• Approved two additional phases for Clark’s Rest
• McKay reported the town is still fighting the state for a traffic light at Route 5 and Moakley/Abell streets.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com