Two nights after a four-hour planning commission meeting where the public expressed concerns for a Leonardtown 7-Eleven, two Leonardtown residents expressed disappointment for the school board’s absence.
Three 7-Elevens are proposed to be built in Leonardtown, Callaway and Great Mills, but residents fear the corner store would draw crime and unwanted people to their neighborhoods.
“I was disappointed not to see anyone from the district at the last meeting,” Melinda Marchlewicz of Hanover Woods Court in Leonardtown said during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s school board meeting.
She said there was concern how the proposed convenience store in Leonardtown would affect traffic around Leonardtown Middle School, especially during dropoff time in the morning. It was suggested to open the school doors a few minutes earlier or move the dropoff point farther up into the school parking lot.
“And there was no one to say there’s a reason why those things are in place,” Marchlewicz said.
She said the next meeting is Feb. 10 at the Chesapeake building in Leonardtown.
Although the school board members generally do not respond to public comment speakers, Superintendent Scott Smith said, “I would like to publicly thank BJ Hall, who was the only person to reach out,” he said about the planning commission member and the St. Mary’s NAACP president. “I assured him that I would be there” at the next meeting about the convenience stores.
Smith said he would provide testimony regarding commercial development, which is something the school system has not historically done, and would make sure school staff are there as well.
Colleen Singleton of Leonardtown, the next public commenter Wednesday evening, said she appreciated that Smith would attend the Feb. 10 meeting, but still expressed disappointed for not being there before.
“So I’m here because I’m very concerned about the safety of our kids … but I’m scared,” she said.
She said the 7-Eleven would increase the sales of tobacco and vaping products. She was also concerned about lingering smells and foot traffic.
Since proposed, there has been a public outcry from residents near the store over safety, traffic congestion and other concerns.
“I think it’s going to impact safety,” she said. “I don’t know what recess is going to look like for our kids.”
The Leonardtown store is located across Medley’s Neck Road from the middle school.
Smith responded to a public commenter once more to say decisions about the 7-Eleven are not made by the school board. “But somehow we’re put in the middle of it,” he added.
Karin Bailey, chair of the school board, said the planning commission did not reach out to them at all.
However, at Monday’s meeting, Joseph Van Kirk, a planning commission member, said they had.