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The highest used convenience center in the county is getting one step closer to being “the convenience center of the future,” according to county staff.

The Calvert County Planning Commission approved the Mt. Hope Convenience Center site plan review last Wednesday with the condition of adding vegetative screening between the convenience center and the Mt. Hope Community Center.

The convenience center in Sunderland is proposed to expand from the existing 16,757-square-foot trash and recycling facility to 17,993 square feet with one entrance for all vehicles and two exits — one for patrons and one for the trucks servicing the station.

“Right now, there’s backup on Pushaw Station Road; that should go away,” Terry Carlson, director of public works, said. “When you see the way the new site’s laid out, you’ll see why there won’t be any congestion and it’ll be a lot faster than a normal convenience center.

“This is the convenience center of the future,” Carlson continued.

Unlike the current center, Carlson said, the new facility will allow for “continuous flow” of traffic because the facility won’t have to be closed down for the trucks to come in and change the boxes.

The salt dome will be demolished to make room for the proposed facility, explained Mike Goudreau, one of the designers of the project with SCS Engineers.

Carlson said the salt dome would be moved to the back of the facility, and “if we can possibly acquire this property, it’ll actually pull back farther away from the residences.”

Carlson said if the county can’t purchase the property, the salt dome will go into the compactor site.

Planning Commission Chairman Maurice Lusby expressed concern about the removal of the salt dome just before the winter season.

Carlson told him the county is looking at two alternatives: stockpiling and covering the salt close by, or working with Maryland State Highway Administration to use its salt dome.

“That’s a real big problem because it’s going to take 12 to 18 months” before the project is completed, Carlson said.

The collection truck path, which goes along the outer rim of the proposed facility, will be a lower level than the residential portion as it drops in grade.

The residential portion will consist of an electronics drop-off site, household hazardous waste drop-off site, covered recycling areas, covered access to the recycling compactors, roll-off containers for the metals and trash compactors for the typical residential household waste.

Vegetation screening is already proposed for the perimeter of the facility fronting Route 2 and the adjacent residential areas. Goudreau said the vegetation will also function as bioretention areas.

The planning commission’s approval of the site plan is conditional on the addition of similar vegetation screening between the community center and the facility.

Planning Commission Vice Chairman Michael Phipps asked how the two neighboring residents would be impacted by the facility.

Michael Thomas, the division chief of solid waste and recycling, said, “As far as the residents are concerned, they’re very happy.”

Phipps said this is a “huge improvement” as far as backups on Pushaw Station Road and out onto Route 2 are concerned.

Lusby asked whether “the changes in [Pushaw Station Road] are gonna take into consideration what’s being done with the convenience center?”

Carlson said the county is “looking at a proposal” to purchase the adjacent property, and there is a preliminary master plan.

“We’re going to improve Pushaw Station Road, decrease the grade and try to improve the entrance to the [Mt. Hope] Community Center,” Carlson said, adding that construction is budgeted for next year.

“We’ll be bringing the plan to [the planning commission] if we can purchase the property,” he explained.

In addition, Carlson said with the new master plan, he hopes there will be more parking at the community center, which will also alleviate some of the congestion on Pushaw Station Road when vehicles are parked along the road.

Carlson said he would “like to make sure” this project starts in the fall.

In other business, the planning commission:

• Unanimously voted to retain the current planning commission officers;

• Unanimously approved to send proposed text amendments regarding mobile food sales and seasonal sales out for agency comment.