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The Calvert County Planning Commission made several changes to the draft updated St. Leonard Town Center Master Plan during a special meeting Wednesday night.

Principal planners Jenny Plummer-Welker and Pat Haddon reviewed agency and public comments submitted on the May 2012 draft plan and discussed county staff’s analysis of the comments.

Plummer-Welker said a letter was received from two town residents requesting the area south of Teeba Drive to Mattapany Road, which is proposed to be zoned as a mixed use district, instead be zoned as a residential district.

In the draft plan, the town is divided into three districts. The northern part of the town is zoned for mixed use, the town center is the core and the southern part of the town is zoned for residential use, Plummer-Welker said. The area from Teeba Drive to Mattapany Road is in the northern part of the town, she said.

Plummer-Welker said work on the zoning ordinance was stopped after public forums were held in 2010 so the planning commission could move forward with the master plan. She said at “the very northern end” there is a commercial building that includes the post office, and additional units in the building are vacant. There is also a “crude site plan” for a commercial convenience store along Woods Drive, she said.

Planning commissioner Bill Glascock said it made sense to encompass the area as a commercial district since the area is already being used for commercial purposes.

The way the area is laid out would make “it much more difficult for commercial uses” than residential, said Planning Commission Vice Chairman Michael Phipps.

Chairman Maurice Lusby said if the commission were to change the proposed use in the plan, another public hearing would need to be held.

“Without another public hearing, I just do not believe that you could arbitrarily go from mixed use to residential,” Lusby said, adding that while it may be the wish of the majority of the people living there, the use cannot be changed without “letting all the people know that those are the intentions.”

Planning commissioner Malcolm Funn said there would be more opportunity for light commercial or residential if the area is designated as mixed use as opposed to being designated as residential. He suggested leaving the area defined as mixed use and when work on the zoning ordinance commences again, “control” what is allowed within the district through the ordinance.

The planning commissioners accepted Funn’s recommendation and left the area designated as mixed use within the draft plan. Any changes to the zoning uses will be addressed during work on the zoning ordinance.

Several comments were submitted expressing concern about a proposed second access road connecting to Toms Lane. Plummer-Welker said she did not hear anyone specifically speak against having the second access road, but rather about where it would connect. She said Toms Lane residents expressed concern about traffic coming through the area because of the number of children that live in the community.

Plummer-Welker said most people were in favor of having a second access road built as soon as possible. She said people wanted the road constructed without sidewalks and bicycle lanes if it would move the process along faster.

Plummer-Welker said bicycle paths and sidewalk areas were included in the plan along with the second access road because many people said they did not feel safe walking and biking along Calvert Beach and Long Beach roads.

“We’re trying to do two things at once — provide the second access and provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access,” she said. “There were comments that if it’s going to cost that much and be that difficult with the sidewalks and to do the bike [paths], forget those and just do the road.”

Haddon said the second access road would cut travel time for the residents and it “certainly would be used.” She said most people want the road only for emergency use.

Plummer-Welker said limiting the use of the second access road to emergency only would alleviate concerns from some of the business owners in the center of town about the second access road becoming a bypass around businesses there.

Plummer-Welker said adding a second access road also may alleviate any traffic congestion caused by accidents on Calvert Beach and Long Beach roads. She said where the road will be does not need to be determined in the master plan and can be decided on by the Department of Public Works.

Haddon said public works is currently in the middle of a feasibility study for the road.

Plummer-Welker made the recommendations to delete the action that the second access road should include bikeways and sidewalks, delete the sentence about connecting the road to Toms Lane and Woods Road and add that the route could be emergency only, which were approved by the planning commissioners.

The planning commission will present the changes to the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners at an Oct. 30 meeting.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com

Other changes

During the Calvert County Planning Commission special meeting Wednesday night, planning commissioners:

- Included a rationale for the inclusion of St. Leonard Elementary School in the southern boundary of the town center and for the northern boundary change and added acreage changes in a paragraph;

- Condensed information about past meetings, forums and open houses held on the draft plan;

- Added the State Highway Administration to the list of organizations involved on the signs at each entrance to the town center;

- Revised a sentence to state bicycle racks should be provided at all major activity centers;

- Added the statement, “All roads proposed on the St. Leonard Town Center Road Plan (Figure 14) are general locations. Exact locations are determined when development occurs”;

- Deleted the proposed sidewalk along Route 765 on the west and east sides outside of the town center boundary and added a brief discussion of the state’s sidewalk retrofit program;

- Revised the public improvements and implementation sections to match language in the waste management section by deleting the text, “providing a community sewerage system”;

- Included an action to work with property and business owners to ensure compliance of county codes regarding building and general property maintenance and sign regulations;

- Added a skate park to the list of facilities to be considered to be included;

- Included the 2010 county comprehensive plan’s objective, “Plan the expansion of public safety services and facilities to coincide with projected population growth and identified needs,” and also noted a second egress from the St. Leonard Volunteer Fire Department firehouse was constructed in 2010; and

- Added Battle Creek Cypress Swamp to the tourism sites near the town center.