On September 19, the Montgomery Planning Board approved a rezoning request for the Burtonsville 7-Eleven and Bedding Barn property (Cheng Property). The local map amendment would allow for an expansion of Burtonsville's 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store and also "encourage the adaptive reuse of the mattress store".
Several years ago, the 2012 Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan changed the zoning of this property from C-2 (general commercial) to CRN (Commercial Residential Neighborhood). The CRN zone allows low-density, mixed-use, and is intended for neighborhood-scale office and retail that is compatible with being adjacent to single-family homes
However, under the CRN zone, the property owner would not be allowed to expand the existing gas station or mattress store because neither of these uses are allowed in that zone.
In order to make improvements to the property and retain the existing uses, the owner requested a rezoning to the Commercial Residential Town (CRT) zone. This adjustment would allow the owner to add 2,500 sq. ft. to the 7-Eleven building, four new fueling stations, and a wider variety of retail uses in the Bedding Barn building. The property owner contended that a CRT zone would more appropriate for this site, given its current use, prominent location, and the fact that there is a substantial forest buffer and distance between the proposed buildings and the nearest residences.
The Planning Department staff agreed with this justification and recommended that the property be "upzoned" from CRN to CRT. Their report states, "The basis for the CRN zoning simply does not apply to the Property. In contrast, the Property is more similar to the properties located along the north side of Old Columbia Pike."
In exchange for this rezoning, the property owner also agreed to pedestrian-friendly frontage improvements, an access road to the McDonald’s property and a prohibition on the following types of uses in either building, which would normally be allowed for a CRT zone but not a CRN zone:
Ambulance, rescue squad (private)
Research and development
Recreation and entertainment facility major (over 1,000 person capacity)
Combination retail store (a department store with more than 85,000 sf)
Retail service establishment greater than 50,001 square feet
Light vehicle sales and rental (indoor or outdoor)
Vehicle service repair (major)
Medical scientific manufacturing and production
Warehouse storage facility
As part of this proposal, the property owner conducted a preliminary traffic study and determined that the intersection of MD 198 and the entrances of the 7-Eleven and Burtonsville Town Square meets the following "warrants" (engineering guidelines) for a traffic signal:
Four-hour vehicular volume
Peak hour delay
Peak hour volume
As noted previously on this blog, the community's request for a traffic signal at this intersection was denied by the State Highway Administration in July 2017, when SHA disagreed with the methods we used to evaluate the intersection. However, based on the results from the property owner's recently-completed traffic study, it appears that our original analysis may have been correct after all, and the intersection does meet the warrants for a traffic signal.
The Planning Department staff provided the following conclusions and recommendations in their report:
"Staff recognizes that this section of MD 198 through downtown Burtonsville is heavily congested during the peak travel hours and offers limited safe pedestrian and bike movement. Given the level of congestion through this corridor and following community requests for traffic calming, Staff recommends that SHA approve any request for a signal at this location and requests the Board send a letter of support. Staff additionally cautions that additional development on the subject property may be contingent on the placement of a signal at this location."
Based on these recent findings, we plan to ask our elected officials at the County Council and District 14 Delegation to support the addition of a traffic signal at this location.
What can you do to get involved?
If you agree that signalizing this intersection would improve safety, write an email to the following people, asking them to support a traffic signal at MD 198 and the Burtonsville Town Square/7-Eleven.
The first three contacts are the State Highway Administration employees that make decisions about traffic signals, while the remaining five contacts are elected officials that can escalate our concerns to SHA.
Also... Have you heard about what's going on at the nearly-empty Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center?
Learn more about the placemaking initiative we are working on with the Montgomery County Planning Department and Better Block Foundation at www.BetterBurtonsville.org.