CHARLOTTE HALL, Md. – By a unanimous vote, the St. Mary’s County Board of Appeals approved the concept site plan for a planned Royal Farms and Starbucks location off Three Notch Road in Charlotte Hall late on July 21.
The property, situated at 37590 Oaks Road and 30315 Three Notch Road, is positioned on a 7.87-acre parcel of land found in the Town Center Mixed-Use District of Charlotte Hall.
The concept site plan, which was denied by the planning commission by a 4-3 vote last March, seeks to construct a 5,380-square-foot Royal Farms gas station and convenience store and a 2,365-square-foot fast-food building with a drive-through which is slated to host a Starbucks.
The plan has been in the works since February 24, 2021, when it was reviewed by TEC Agencies, and a traffic study was conducted. The plan went before the Planning Commission on two nights, where it was finally denied on March 21, 2022, leading the applicant to file an appeal.
“This is one step and a step that’s fairly early in the process,” Chris Longmore, the attorney representing the Royal Farms development said at the hearing. “It’s not the final site plan where more engineering will be done after tonight to finalize all of the plans… There will be other comments from the county and state agencies and then the planning director has the ultimate authority to grant the final site plan.”
The goal of the evening was for the property owner to prove to the Appeals Board that their goals are applicable to the Comprehensive Plan, that it can be served by adequate public facilities, that it will promote health safety and welfare of the public, that there are adequately developed recreational facilities nearby, and that it is consistent with county design objectives.
One of the points brought up by the Planning Commission was concerns surrounding charging stations on the property for electric vehicles.
The developer for the property spoke at the Appeals Board meeting, confirming that the property will have charging stations, and that the applicant had already secured those chargers. The project’s electric plans are planning to incorporate further details about the infrastructure and the impact those might have on the property.
After hours of presentations, zoning and traffic discussions, public comment was placed by several members of the audience.
Many members of the audience voiced traffic-related concerns surrounding the intersection of Oaks Road and Three Notch Road, along with potential traffic problems near the Three Notch Trail, behind the property.
“I’ve seen three people get hit on that trail, three at that same intersection,” Wendy Smith, a resident who lives near the proposed project location, said. “The traffic simulation that they did is not accurate, and I will offer this to you too, any of you that want to come sit on my front porch and watch the traffic, you’re more than welcome. Their simulation said there were six cars that went through my house during rush hour, between 7 o’clock and 11 a.m., because I am up putting my kids on the bus. There was 36 cars, 36, so their six to 36 is not accurate… I see probably six to eight people run those stop signs every day.”
Prior to being denied by the Planning Commission, that board laid out seven changes that they wanted to see the developers make. However, they were eventually denied, despite making those changes.
After seeing these changes and the developer’s willingness to make the changes throughout the process of their appeal presentation, the board was satisfied enough to approve the project.
“I think [this] Royal Farms project is one of the better projects we have seen come in front of us, as far as trying to take care of the public,” Appeals Board Member Wayne Miedzinski said. “They’ve bent over backwards trying to do the right thing here, so I commend them.”
The concept site plan will be revised and later submitted to Land Use and Growth Management Planning Director Bill Hunt for final approval. If Hunt were to deny the final approval, the plan could find its way back to the Board of Appeals.
The developer should be moving on to the next stages of the project’s engineering within the next 60 days.
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