Artist’s rendering of the proposed Hollywood Commercial center

Leonardtown, MD — The St. Mary’s County Board of Appeals has approved with conditions the proposed Hollywood Commercial Center at the Route 235 and Sotterley Road intersection.

The approval at the board’s special July 21 meeting came after three nights of hearings and effectively overturned the planning commission’s denial of the project.

With the unanimous approval the board required as conditions that the developer build a sidewalk along both Route 235 and Sotterley Road, and a crosswalk at the intersection, that they expand the buffer on Old Three Notch Road, and that they install signage prohibiting trucks from using the old Three Notch entrance. The applicant will have to craft an order for review by County Attorney George Sparling and then the board will sign the order ratifying their voice vote.

The planning commission denied the proposed 14-acre center largely on concerns about traffic, particularly on Sotterley Road. But the attorney for the developer Hollywood Partners Three Notch LLC, Chris Longmore, successfully argued that the planners erred in considering traffic at the concept plan review stage because that was the purview of the planning director in approving the final plat.

The planning commission was restricted to six considerations, Longmore argued. He admitted that one of those standards related to the “health, safety and general welfare.” Although opponents argued that traffic could be considered under that broad topic, Longmore said state case law disagreed with that contention.

Before the appeals board made their decision, Chairman George Alan Hayden allowed public testimony again. And the chairman and vice chairman of the planning commission, Howard Thompson and Shelby Guazzo, expressed again their concerns about traffic. Mike Thompson also testified that the sight distance from the shopping center entrance on Sotterley Road was inadequate for traffic coming from the direction of Sotterley.

Before the decision the board also viewed a video traffic simulation of what the intersection would look like in 2020 without the shopping center and what it would look like with the center, showing traffic movements. The simulation was done for the peak traffic quarter hour of 4:45 to 5 p.m. and purported to show the roads could handle the traffic

Howard Thompson, however, argued that traffic varies constantly at the intersection and the simulation wasn’t representative of what happens there.

One speaker, John Thompson, argued for the need of sidewalks as a safety issue. Hayden latched onto those comments and insisted that the developer provide sidewalks as a condition of approval. Longmore said he wasn’t sure whether the State Highway Administration would okay sidewalks. But Sparling said the board could impose any conditions and it was up to the applicant to abide by them.

The shopping center will include a relocated CVS Pharmacy and Burch Mart. The property owned by the Dean Partnership, LLC also includes an additional eight acres that is not part of the shopping center and which will convey to another business entity. That property will reportedly be used to relocate Winegardner Chevrolet from downtown Leonardtown,

Several speakers argued that instead of an entrance on Sotterley Road, the shopping center should be served by a full traffic signal at the crossover at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department. But engineers for the developers said that the state denied such a light for an earlier proposal for the property, presumably because it was too close to the existing light at Route 235/Sotterley Road.

The appeals board has 30 days to sign the written order approving the center. If the applicant disagrees with any of the conditions they can come back to the appeals board to request a variance.

Contact Dick Myers at