Hollywood development is put on hold
Hunt says proposal won’t move forward without revised traffic study
A large commercial development proposed in Hollywood cannot advance until a revised traffic study is submitted to the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management, its new director said this week, calling the current impact study “incomplete and misleading.”
The Hollywood Commercial Center, proposing 50,200 square feet of commercial and retail space on the corner of Sotterley Road and Route 235 was denied by the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission in March last year, but approved by the county’s board of zoning appeals last August, and a circuit court decision later affirmed that approval.
But the project won’t get final approvals from the land use and growth management department until a revised traffic impact study is submitted, said Bill Hunt, who was recently promoted from interim director of land use and growth management to the director.
When the Hollywood Commercial Center project came before the planning commission, the site plan showed a car dealership on 8 acres of the 22 parent tract, but that was not a part of the formal proposal.
The 29,969-square-foot car dealership was scheduled to be heard by the planning commis- sion in April, but land use and growth management staff pulled it from the agenda.
“A complete traffic impact study for the entire property was needed,” Hunt said in an interview this week. “There’s nothing for us to review until we get that traffic impact study and we haven’t received it.”
On May 22, Hunt wrote to attorney Christopher Longmore, who represents the developer
— Hollywood Partners Three Notch LLC.
Hunt wrote that the Maryland State Highway Administration in its review of the traffic impact study believed that there are two separate projects on the 22 acres in Hollywood, as was initially presented to the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission.
“The northern portion of the site is labelled ‘Future by Others’ along with ‘Separate Ownership.’ This exhibit with the notation of ‘Separate Ownership’ may explain why SHA thought the site was not under single ownership,” Hunt wrote.
“Had SHA staff known the site was under a single owner, SHA’s pre- ferred access point would have been f rom [Route] 235 across from the [Hollywood Volunteer] Fire Department,” Hunt wrote.
Instead, the Hollywood Commercial Center’s main entrance is planned to be off of Sotterley Road across from the Burchmart convenience store and gas station. This site caused some concern from residents who live in the area.
“The February 2016 [traffic impact study] was not accurate because the access point from [Route] 235 across from the fire department was not included. I will not be able to make a finding regarding [adequate public facilities] for the roads that will be impacted by the project until an accurate [traffic impact study] has been prepared and reviewed by SHA,” Hunt wrote.
Hunt suggested that a new traffic impact study be prepared that includes an access point on Route 235 across from the Hollywood firehouse.
“After SHA has accepted, reviewed and commented on a new [traffic impact study], I will coordinate with you and your client to resubmit the project to the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission for its review of a revised concept site plan,” Hunt continued.
“If one site is being developed by the owner, traffic needs to be analyzed for the entire site,” Hunt said. “The county would like all of the in- formation to be obtained then the county would be able to make a decision on the entrance.”
As it was proposed without the car dealership, the Hollywood Commercial Center was expected to generate up to 13,000 trips per day.
Longmore replied to Hunt on May 26, saying that his client disputes the representations made by Hunt regarding the meeting with SHA officials.
“My client believes that many of the statements in your letter mischaracterize the substance of that meeting and more importantly your letter omits many portions of the discussions that were supportive of my client’s project and application,” Longmore wrote.
“We believe that my client and its engineers have submitted all of the information required for you … to grant final site plan approval,” Longmore continued. “My client is, however, considering the issues you raised in your May 22, 2017, letter and we will follow up with you further once my client has determined its best course of action.”
On July 21, Hunt wrote to Corren Johnson, district engineer for SHA, to let the agency know about the county’s concerns.
“The county and other reviewing agencies must have a site plan for the development of the entire property before any approval can be granted,” Hunt wrote. “A traffic impact study for the entire property must be submitted for review in conjunction with a complete site plan for the entire development. In my position as director I have final authority for approving a major site plan; I will not consider approval without a complete site plan and a traffic impact study for the entire property.”
Hunt called the traffic impact study “incomplete and misleading” as it “had been prepared for only a portion of the Hollywood Commercial Center.”
So the entire project won’t be moving forward until a revised traffic study is submitted to land use and growth management, Hunt said.
“I have to see it before I say ‘sure this looks good.’ Until that’s received there can’t be any review of site plans for the project. They can’t move forward without site plan approval and they can’t move forward without a building permit,” he said.