Concerns about traffic forced the Howard County Board of Appeals to postpone for a second time last night a vote on plans by the Exxon Corp. to build a gas station in North Laurel.
"Any additional traffic would cause a catastrophe," said North Laurel resident Myrtle Coon as she and other opponents pointed out that the intersection where the Exxon outlet would be located has been identified by the state as a high-accident location.
Board members had expected to vote on the proposal at last night's meeting, but after three hours of testimony from opponents, the board postponed a vote in order to study the traffic problems.
The board expects to vote on the matter next month.
During the hearing, the board met in closed session for about 10 minutes to discuss with its legal adviser which traffic concerns were under its jurisdiction and which others were out of its hands.
"I know the people in opposition are frustrated because I'm frustrated," board member George Lyman said just before the board went into the closed session.
Exxon wants to build a gas station with a convenience store and a carwash on a 1.1-acre parcel at All Saints Road and Route 216. Next to the proposed gas station, the McDonald's chain wants to build a restaurant, and has an option on land for the project.
Some residents who support the projects say the location is particularly attractive for a fast-food restaurant because others are a mile or more outside the community on U.S. 1; and Crown is now the only gas station in the community, which also has two small strip malls.
But members of the North Laurel Civic Association -- an 80-family community organization -- want the board to reject Exxon's plans because, they said, the inter- section where the outlet would be located is dangerous.
The county and state have regularly identified the intersection of All Saints Road and Route 216 as a high-accident location and one of the county's worst intersections. The State Highway Administration says any intersection with 15 or more accidents during a 12-month period is considered a high-accident location.
During the first six months of this year, Howard County police responded to 11 accidents there.
Exxon representatives were visibly disturbed as opponents, including the owner of the Crown station, located across the street from the proposed Exxon outlet, made known their concerns.
"We're being tossed one way and another," Exxon attorney Francis Hunter said. "I'm between the devil and the deep blue sea."