***This will be a virtual meeting via Zoom***
The public wishing to speak on any items are asked to register for the Zoom meeting information at https://www.cityoflaurel.org/clerk/meetings by 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.
- Roll Call
- Approval of Minutes- December 30, 2021 Meeting
- Special Exception Application No. 921; Resolution No. 22-03-BOA, 14940 Silver Trail Lane, filed by Westside Land Holdings LLC, seeking approval to construct a 4,800 sq. ft. commercial building that includes a Starbucks restaurant with a drive-thru and for lease retail space.
- Public Hearing on Application
- Final Action
- Special Exception Application No. 920; Resolution No. 22-02-BOA, 14910 Silver Trail Lane, filed by Westside Land Holdings LLC, seeking approval to construct a Wawa gas station complex. The site is part of the larger development known as Westside.
- Public Hearing on Application
- Final Action
THREE HUNDRED SIXTY SIXTH MEETING
CITY OF LAUREL BOARD OF APPEALS
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2022 – REGULAR
***This meeting was conducted through Zoom Virtual Platform due to COVID-19 Pandemic***
Convened: 6:00 P.M.
Board Members Present (During Roll):
Robert Love, Director, ECD
Joshua Mitchum, Planner II, ECD
Brooke Quillen, Secretary to Board of Appeals, ECD
Darnell Butler, Production Assistant, Communications
Larry Taub, City Solicitor
Citizens Present: Approximately: Approximately six (6)
The minutes of the December 30, 2021 meeting were approved as written on motion by Mr. Whitley and seconded by Mrs. Leszcz, carried on a roll call vote of all other members present.
It was noted by staff item no. (4) four will be switched with agenda item no. (3) three per the applicant’s request with how they have set up their presentation.
Next, the Board heard the request for Special Exception Application No. 920 and Resolution No. 22-02-BOA, 14910 Silver Trail Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, filed by Westside Land Holdings LLC, 9102 Owens Drive Manassas Park, VA 20111. Mr. Mitchum completed the reading of the record for the administrative approval process and presented the technical staff report dated December 28, 2021. The applicant seeks Special Exception approval for Westside Commercial Lot 4 to construct a gas station complex. The existing use of the property is vacant until the development of the Westside subdivision begins. The proposed building size of the Wawa store is proposed to be 5,600 square feet (building maximum is 27,630 square feet re is proposed to a 30% coverage). The filling station and convenience store are located on the southeastern corner of the proposed Westside MXT development project.
The attorney for the applicant, Mr. Edward C. Gibbs, Jr., Esquire, Gibbs and Haller, 1300 Caraway Court Suite 102 Largo, Maryland 20774, stated he had several speakers who would like to provide testimony to the Board in support of these projects. Mr. Gibbs informed the Board he and his client are in attendance to answer any questions and agree to all the conditions listed in the staff report.
Chairman Smalls opened the public hearing at 6:08 p.m.
The first speaker, a representative for the applicant, Mr. Blake Esherick, BCE Real Estate LLC, 1 Springer Court Bethesda, Maryland, 20817, Manager of Land Development for Westside Land Holdings LLC., and Strittmatter Lane LLC., answered questions provided from Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Esherick stated this project is a part of a larger mixed-use project located on Van Dusen Road and Konterra Drive. He added the initial plan had up to 80 townhouses, a hotel and commercial/retail spaces. Since then, they have built 484 apartments and 56 townhouses. He noted for the past five (5) years they have searched for a grocery store. Mr. Esherick explained then a revision plan request came back to the City for approval, to reduce the size of commercial space from 200,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet. It was decided the best use of the land would be for townhouses, which was reviewed and approved by the City of Laurel in June 2019. There were four (4) lots approved for commercial space. He mentioned Wawa will lease their parcel and he was involved in the negotiations of the lease and is familiar with their business functionality which is within the guidelines of the use of a gas station complex. They will sell automotive fuel as a primary use and will not offer any vehicle repair which is prohibited. There will be eight (8) pumps with 16 fueling points that will be clustered beneath a canopy. Food and groceries will be sold in the separate convenience store building. The lighting will be safe and provided on site with no glare shields. Mr. Esherick added no fumes or odors will be released on site, and a signage package was also filed with the site plan. No trailers or trucks are allowed to be stored and a carwash is prohibited. He stated they met with surrounding residents several times, most recent being on January 4th 2022, January 5th 2022 and January 6th 2022. He believes most of the feedback from the neighborhoods was very positive. In his opinion, this will be a great addition to the community. Lastly, he stated he has read the staff report and accepts all the conditions that have been proposed.
Chairman Smalls asked what happened to the plan of a grocery store and if there are any prospects for the second portion on that building.
Mr. Blake Esherick, Development Manager, BCE Real Estate LLC, 1 Springer Court Bethesda, Maryland, 20817, explained they were not able to anchor a grocery store because there are not enough residents in the immediate area and all the grocery companies prefer to be closer to Route 1. He explained the general retailers have difficulty due to competitors such as Amazon and Walmart with online purchases/deliveries, therefore, grocery stores are more hesitant to open new buildings. Mr. Esherick noted they are currently working with other prospects but as of right now nothing can be announced at this time.
The second speaker, Mr. Kevin Caillouet, Civil Engineer, Ben Dyer Associates, Inc., 11721 Woodmore Road Suite 200 Mitchellville, Maryland 20721, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs, stated he has been a Civil Engineer for approximately 36 years and has worked on other projects in Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel that has been approved. His resume was submitted as part of the record. The Board of Appeals agreed Mr. Caillouet is considered a expert witness for Civil Engineering. Mr. Caillouet explained that Ben Dyer Associates Inc., prepared the site plans for this project to include the landscape plans. He added he has reviewed the City of Laurel Unified Land Development Code and in his opinion, these plans do conform to all the development regulations. Additionally, the parking regulations were consulted with Mr. Robert Love, Director, Department of Economic and Community Development, noting only 35 spaces are required however they are providing 58 spaces, the greenspace requirement is only 10% and they are providing just shy of 30%. Mr. Caillouet stated in his opinion the design aspect should not have any negative impacts to the community.
Moreover, the Board members, staff and Mr. Caillouet had a short discussion regarding how they came up with number of parking spaces and how many handicapped spaces are required. Mr. Caillouet explained there are as many parking spaces as the site allowed and there will be three (3) handicapped spaces on the lot. The requirement is one (1) handicapped space per 25 spaces.
The third speaker, Mr. Stuart Patz, Economic Consultant, 46175 Westlake Drive Suite 400 Sterling, Virginia 20165, answered several questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Patz advised the Board he has been in the business for approximately 45 years and has been through the approval process for Princes George’s County along with several others. His resume was submitted as part of the record and the Board agreed him to be considered as an expert witness to provide a Needs Analysis. Then he explained he prepared the data to prove the showing of need regarding this project and is comfortable with the results in the study. He further explained they found a surplus demand of more fuel in the area, including what is already being supplied along with the new construction. Mr. Patz stated the analysis included interviews with all gas stations that would compete with Wawa within the greater Laurel area and received data from brokers and the real estate market throughout Prince George’s County. He added they determined there was in fact an unmet need for fuel sales with very accurate data. He stated the proposed Wawa is within the growth area of Laurel, with new housing and employment planned.
Additionally, there was a short discussion among the Board members and Mr. Patz regarding the other new Wawa on the opposite side of town and the Royal Farms across the street from this project. He explained even with these two (2) new gas stations the access need is still there. He added the projection is not for just today but also for the future including 2024 when this new Wawa is set to open. Additionally, this new proposed gas station will provide for I-95 traffic, and he believes it has excellent visibility and is well located on the site.
The fourth speaker, Mr. Michael Lenhart, Traffic Engineer, Lenhart Traffic Consulting, 331 Redwood Grove Court Millersville, Maryland 21108, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Lenhart stated he has approximately 32 years of experience and 17 years with his own company in the business. He added he has experience with the City of Laurel and Prince George’s County along with several others for plan approval. His resume was submitted for the record. The Board agreed with considering him an expert in the field of transportation. He noted he has been the traffic consultant since the conception of this project. The original conceptual site plan was previously approved. He added with the reduction of commercial retail, a dramatic reduction of traffic was found. He explained he prepared a new traffic signal plan. Mr. Lenhart then stated the State Highway Division noted a new traffic light would be justified as it met all the warrants, therefore a new traffic signal was approved at Westside Boulevard. There are nine (9) warrants that justifies a new signal and this project met all the warrants. He added the new traffic light will be installed prior to the issuance of the Use & Occupancy permit. Mr. Lenhart mentioned the State Highway Administration has approved the access road and the benefit will reduce unnecessary left turn movements on Westside Boulevard which is much safer. In his opinion, the development of this Wawa will be compatible with traffic conditions in the surrounding area. In addition, he stated the approval of this application would be consistent with the Unified Land Development Code and will have no adverse impact on the community.
Furthermore, there was a \discussion regarding the type of new traffic light that will be installed. Mr. Lenhart stated it will be a standard red, yellow and green light on all sides, adding the access element will allow units to be much safer with fewer turning points. He also commented that he believes the light can be synchronize with the other light to reduce backups and will investigate that suggestion from the Board of Appeals. Lastly, he noted he does not believe this will have an adverse impact on the community.
The fifth speaker, Mr. Mark Ferguson Senior Land Planner, RDA/Sign Design Inc., 9500 Medical Center Drive Suite 480 Largo, Maryland 20774, will be answering questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs.
Mr. Edward C. Gibbs, Jr., Esquire, Gibbs and Haller, 1300 Caraway Court Suite 102 Largo, Maryland 20774, apologized to the Board for not sending his resume over before the hearing and asked for anyone who knows Mr. Mark Feguson to speak up.
Next, Mr. Larry Taub, City Solicitor, stated he does in fact know Mr. Mark Ferguson on a personal level and that he is a very well-respected individual.
Next, Mr. Dennis Whitley, Board of Appeals Member, also stated he is familiar with Mr. Mark Ferguson and can attest to his credentials.
Finally, the Board agreed to accept Mr. Mark Ferguson as an expert witness as a Land Planner.
Mr. Mark Ferguson, Senior Land Planner, RDA/Sign Design Inc., 9500 Medical Center Drive Suite 480 Largo, Maryland 20774, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Ferguson stated he has 37 years of experience in the field and has gone before other administrative bodies in Prince Geoge’s County for approval, he explained he is familiar with this project and had an opportunity to review the site plan and requirements for a Special Exception for a gas station complex in the Unified Land Development Code. He advised the Board of Appeals that he is in full support of this project. He explained the project meets all criteria as the proposed use is in harmony with the purpose and intent of the City of Laurel Master Plan, the use will not be an adverse effect to the health, safety or welfare of the community, the use will not be detrimental in the neighborhood and will cause no objectionable noise, vibrations, fumes, odors, dust, glare or physical activity, it will not overburden existing public services and facilities and it meets the specific standards set forth in the Section 20.22.21 of the Land Development Code. Lastly, he thanked Mr. Taub and Mr. Whitley for their support and kind words.
Chairman Smalls closed the public hearing at 7:12 p.m.
On motion by Mr. Whitley seconded by Mrs. Leszcz and carried on a unanimous vote by all members present, Special Exception Application No. 920 and Resolution No. 22-02-BOA were approved as presented in the Technical Staff Report.
Next, the Board heard the request for Special Exception Application No. 921 and Resolution No. 22-03-BOA, 14940 Silver Trail Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, filed by Westside Land Holdings LLC, 9102 Owens Drive Manassas Park, VA 20111. Mr. Love completed the reading of the record for the administrative approval process and presented the technical staff report dated December 28, 2021. The applicant seeks Special Exception approval for Westside Commercial Lot 4 to construct a 4,800 sq. ft. commercial building that includes a Starbucks restaurant with a drive thru and for lease retail space. The Starbucks restaurant with a drive-thru will encompass 2,496 sq. ft. while the retail space will cover 2,304 sq. ft. Facing the building, vehicles will enter the drive-thru on the right side of the building, they will order at the menu board at the rear of the building and the drive-thru window will be located on the left side of the building. A total of 36 spaces are proposed on the Site Plan package submitted with this Application for the entire lot. The Starbucks is proposed to have 37 seats, which requires 25 parking spaces.
Chairman Smalls opened the public hearing at 7:18 p.m.
The attorney for the applicant, Mr. Edward Gibbs, Gibbs and Haller, 1300 Caraway Court Suite 102 Largo, Maryland 20774, stated some of the previous speakers who provided testimonies regarding Wawa would also like to provide testimony to the Board of Appeals in support of Starbucks, however the conversation will be much shorter since the history of the project has already been covered. He commented that Starbucks is permitted as a matter of right and the only need for a Special Exception is due to the drive thru component. Mr. Gibbs added he and his client are in attendance to answer any questions and agree to all the conditions listed in the staff report.
Mr. Blake Esherick, Development Manager, BCE Real Estate LLC, 1 Springer Court Bethesda, Maryland, 20817, stated he provided written testimony regarding the Starbucks for the record. The Starbucks will be in the center of the site facing Wawa with a drive thru component which will wrap around the building. There will be an order board on the side of the building where orders will be placed, and orders will be picked up at another window. He added there will be approximately 37 seats inside the building with an outdoor patio area directly in the front of the building.
Additionally, there was discussion among the Board and the applicant regarding the parking spaces. Mr. Gibbs explained there will be 36 parking spaces, there are 25 required spaces with 11 additional unspoken for spaces, that would be used for any retail that comes in.
Mr. Kevin Caillouet, Civil Engineer, Ben Dyer Associates, Inc., 11721 Woodmore Road Suite 200 Mitchellville, Maryland 20721, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Caillouet explained he designed the site plan with some associates and all required parking spaces are provided with extra spaces under the code. He added the extra spaces are not directly in front of the Starbucks building but are close enough and usable for Starbucks. In addition, he noted there will be extra screening installed at the drive thru with a 6’ high fence with landscaping/shrubs and greenery to soften the look from the residential side of the subdivision.
Furthermore, there was a discussion among the Board and the Civil Engineer regarding the entrance, exit and walkability. Mr. Caillouet added there are three (3) entrances and exits from the lot. He added there will be sidewalks provided from the residential section to the Wawa and Starbucks to support a walkable community. In regard to the drive thru aisle, during peak hours there should be no congestion because there are approximately 13 stacking spaces within the entire drive thru and seven (7) stacking spaces from the order board to the pickup window which is a standard requirement of Starbucks.
Mr. Michael Lenhart, Traffic Engineer, Lenhart Traffic Consulting, 331 Redwood Grove Court Millersville, Maryland 21108, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Lenhart announced he had prepared the traffic studies for both the prior plan, revised plan, and a stacking study was also done for Starbucks. It shows level of que is between 11-13 vehicles for morning peak, since there are 12-13 stacking spaces, they believe the peak ques will be accommodated, the morning peak time are usually short lived. They see no concerns. He does not believe the approval of this Special Exception would have any adverse effect on the community.
Mr. Ferguson Senior Land Planner, RDA/Sign Design Inc., 9500 Medical Center Drive Suite 480 Largo, Maryland 20774, answered questions provided by the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Edward Gibbs. Mr. Ferguson reiterated he has been engaged in this project for Starbucks and is familiar with the area and site plan. In his opinion this application does conform to the use requirements, only general criteria apply to this application and the master plan does support this use as it will not have any adverse effect on the area.
Finally, Mr. Edward C. Gibbs, Jr., Esquire, Gibbs and Haller, 1300 Caraway Court Suite 102 Largo, Maryland 20774, announced this concludes his presentation and testimonies.
Chairman Smalls closed the public hearing at 7:42 p.m.
On motion by Mr. Whitley seconded by Mrs. Leszcz, and carried on a unanimous vote by all members present, Special Exception Application No. 921 and Resolution No. 22-03-BOA were approved as presented in the Technical Staff Report.
Chairman Smalls thanked everyone for their time and noted this is a long-anticipated project for this area. He noted he is very pleased to hear majority of the residents are excited with the offerings in this project and this is a great opportunity to do something special.
Adjournment: 7:43 P.M.
APPROVED: Brooke Quillen DATE: 5/26/2022