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Another hearing is set on Exxon gas station plan


Members of the Howard County Board of Appeals voted last night to hold another hearing on a proposal by Exxon Corp. to build a gas station in North Laurel, further stretching deliberation of a case the board took up in July.

The vote was 3-2.

Some board members said they had insufficient information about the impact the gas station would have on traffic in the area. The board set a hearing on that matter for Dec. 12, angering residents at the meeting.

"Everyone should have the information they need for a clear vote," said board member James Caldwell. "I don't want the board to be split. It gives [opponents and proponents] grounds for an appeal."

Exxon's wants to build a gas station with a convenience store and 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.

Concerning Exxon, residents complained that the site selected by the oil company would bring more traffic problems to an already dangerous intersection.

At four previous hearings, residents testified about the dangerous All Saints Road-Route 216 intersection.

Exxon attorney Francis Hunter did not prepare a traffic impact analysis as part of the oil company's case. But after the residents' strong testimony about the traffic problems, Mr. Hunter sent a letter to the board, requesting another hearing.

"He knows traffic is a problem," board member Margaret Rutter said before the vote to reopen the hearings. "I vote not to reopen the hearings."

But in the end, Exxon got its wish. And board members decided to reopen the case, raising residents' ire.

The residents have been waiting for a decision on the gas station since the board first heard the case in early July. They said there has been ample opportunity for Exxon's representatives to make their case.

"They're only worried about appeals from Exxon," said Tom Flynn, vice president of the North Laurel Civic Association. "The North Laurel Civic Association doesn't have the resources to appeal. They should vote on the evidence before them."

That evidence included county studies and accident reports.

County planners have listed the All Saints Road-Route 216 intersection as one of six in need of major improvements.

It is failing safety standards and needs $780,000 worth of immediate upgrades, county planners said in a July 20 report.

In addition, the county and the state have regularly identified the intersection as a high-accident location.

The State Highway Administration says any intersection with 15 or more accidents during a 12-month period is considered a high-accident location.

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 1, county police responded to 16 accidents at that intersection.

Also last night, the board approved a proposal by the Salvation Army to build a thrift store near Savage.

The plan calls for construction of a 25,000-square-foot retail center on a 6.74-acre wooded lot at the southeast corner of the intersection of Guilford Road and U.S. 1, an industrial area.

Salvation Army officials said the store likely would open in July and be one of the group's 14 thrift stores in the Baltimore-Washington area. The new shop would create six to 10 jobs.

It would be the second major thrift shop in the North Laurel-Savage area. The other -- the Laurel Thrift Store, a privately owned store once run by AMVETS -- is off U.S. 1 about five miles south of the proposed Salvation Army store.

Revenue from the thrift store will help fund a 150-bed alcohol- and drug-treatment program the Salvation Army operates in Prince George's County.

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