Plan­ners ap­prove site for new re­tail cen­ter in La Plata

Bal­dus own­ers to build on old True Value Hard­ware plot

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WATSON twat­son@somd­news.com

To con­tinue work­ing to­ward the Town of La Plata’s goal of be­com­ing a walk­a­ble, sus­tain­able com­mu­nity, the own­ers of The Bal­dus Cen­tre plan to add a re­tail cen­ter to in­crease value to the com­mu­nity. The new build­ing will be de­vel­oped on a grassy rec­tan­gle in the

cen­ter of the site that was once True Value Hard­ware store, de­stroyed in the 2002 tor­nado that struck La Plata.

On Nov. 28, Se­nior Plan­ner Jea­nine Har­ring­ton pre­sented the Bal­dus Re­tail Cen­ter site plan to the Town of La Plata Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, along with James Erd­man, de­sign con­sul­tant from Ben Dyer and As­so­ciates, who rep­re­sented the ap­pli­cant owner, Jake Bal­dus Grier of Bal­dus Real Es­tate Inc.

The town staff re­com- mended ap­proval of the Bal­dus Re­tail Cen­ter site plan, sub­ject to the condi- tion of stormwa­ter man­age­ment ap­proval.

“The land­scap­ing plan is in com­pli­ance with the code,” Har­ring­ton said. “They will do a good job of land­scap­ing around the site. Park­ing was a con­cern on the site. They have an ex­ist­ing shared park­ing per­mit and we will be up­dat­ing that in re­gards to this plan. The site re­quires 163 park- ing spa­ces in to­tal, so we broke it down by the three build­ings. Since they are tak­ing all of the park­ing on site, they are plan­ning on tak­ing on the top lot that is in [the] same own­er­ship.”

The ap­pli­cant sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for ap­prov- al of a one-story, 13,864 square foot re­tail cen­ter, in­clud­ing a 3,291 square foot gro­cery store; 9,468 square foot med­i­cal of­fice and a 1,105 square foot res­tau­rant — a to­tal of 1.69 acres of ad­ja­cent land use. The sub­ject prop­erty is lo­cated be­tween the ex- ist­ing Bal­dus of­fice build­ing lo­cated on Charles Street and the Burger King on Crain High­way.

At the La Plata De­sign Re­view Board meet­ing on May 18, the board ap­proved the pro­posed site’s lay­out and archi- tec­tural de­sign with the fol­low­ing con­di­tions: the load­ing area should be iden­ti­fied with strip­ing; signs need to be pro­vided to di­rect traf­fic; a rear fa­cade treat­ment should be added to mimic the look of the front el­e­va­tion by pos­si­bly adding faux store­fronts. The board ex- pressed con­cerns about the ex­ist­ing bank driv­ethrough, and re­quested that a stop bar and “do not en­ter” sig­nage should be added.

Har­ring­ton said the ap­pli­cant has ad­dressed all of th­ese con­cerns with the re­vised site de­vel­op­ment

plan.

The ap­pli­cant also pro­posed pro­vid­ing stairs to the rear park­ing lot to pro­vide a con­nec­tion to the rear park­ing area as well as a con­nec­tion to the ex­ist­ing Burger King res­tau­rant, uti­liz­ing the ex­ist­ing paved area on the par­cel just east of the site. A cross­walk from the pro­posed re­tail build­ing to the fast food res­tau­rant, an in­side trash area and land­scap­ing in the park­ing lot were also pro­posed by Erd­man. How­ever, 25 of the 163 park­ing spa­ces were not shown on the pre­sented site plan.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion was given an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress some of its ma­jor con­cerns with the site plan re­vi­sions such as walk pat­terns, curbs and park­ing.

“I would like to see the 25 spots as part of this de­vel­op­ment,” said James Bre­itinger, plan­ning com­mis­sion mem­ber. “The way it is pre­sented now, it’s like an ad­junct off to the side. If those 25 spots, re­gard­less if they are there and their us­age at given times of the day are part of this de­vel­op­ment, and there are 163 park­ing spa­ces re­quired to sup­port this de­vel­op­ment.”

Bre­itinger also re­quested some type of pedes­trian ac­cess from that park­ing lot to the cross­way lead­ing to the cen­ter.

Michael Ga­han ex­pressed con­cerns about peo­ple park­ing in the up­per end of the re­tail cen­ter and walk­ing be­tween the park­ing ar­eas to get to the ac­tual build­ing.

“I have some con­cern about safety there and about en­trances if peo­ple are park­ing that much fur­ther away,” Ga­han said. “If peo­ple are park­ing in that up­per east lot, you ul­ti­mately want to find a walk­way there and the walk­way would lead them to the front of the build­ing.”

Erd­man said at this time the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the up­per end park­ing area will not be uti­lized as much for the re­tail cen­ter.

“As of now, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that should any­one park up there that they would come around and walk down on some steps,” Erd­man said. “How­ever that prop­erty is ac­tu­ally owned by the Bal­duses, so they have some fur­ther longterm plans of re­de­vel­op­ing that. We are propos­ing a stair­way from the park­ing lot down to a walk­way.”

“Peo­ple go­ing into an of­fice build­ing will tend to park on an­other lot and walk to the build-

ing,” said Town Coun­cil­man Keith Back. “Peo­ple go­ing to a res­tau­rant or gro­cery store don’t tend to park two blocks down the street and hike to the gro­cery store. There are only 54 spots in front of the build­ing. Go­ing to a res­tau­rant or gro­cery store, you typ­i­cally want to park in front of the res­tau­rant or gro­cery store.”

“I per­son­ally don’t have a prob­lem with park- ing be­hind the build­ing; peo­ple do it al­ready in the town,” said plan­ning com­mis­sion Chair­woman De­bra W. Posey. “I think the only prob­lem that I have is that I agree with ev­ery­one else. There’s re­ally no walk pat­tern from that park­ing lot. In the­ory we are con­stantly talk­ing about cross­walks

and how we need to have good cross­walks at ev­ery spot. We have noth­ing com­ing down from that spot to the re­tail cen­ter.”

Al­though plan­ning com- mis­sion mem­ber Roy Han­cock ab­stained from the vote, the plan­ning com­mis­sion ap­proved the site plan with staff’s ex­ist­ing rec­om­men­da­tion of the stormwa­ter man­age­ment and new stip­ula- tions.

“The ad­di­tion of a set of stairs from the 25 park­ing spots down to the back park­ing lot, and with a cross­walk con­nected to the side­walk,” Posey said. “If no new plans come within five years, the wooden stairs will be re­placed with per­ma­nent con­crete stairs with metal rail­ings.”

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