A controversial proposal to build a gas station in the parking lot of Wilkens Beltway Plaza is expected to clear its first hurdle when the county Development Review Committee considers plans for the project.
The development is being undertaken by shopping center owner Kimco Realty at the behest of its anchor store, Giant Food, according to the Landover, Md.-based supermarket chain.
According to sources, Giant plans to build its own branded fuel service station on the footprint presently occupied by a vacant Carrollton Bank building.
"We've just started the approval process," said Giant Food spokesperson Jamie Miller. "Our hope is to have it open in 2013."
At a June 19 review hearing, the committee's decision was tabled while a search is conducted for missing plans dating from 1978, according to Colleen Kelly, development manager in the county Department of Permits and Development Management.
If the 1978 plans are located, the panel will require them to be updated and filed with the county before approval is granted, Kelly said. Otherwise, the plan filed with the county on May 31 will be approved.
However, that doesn't mean the gas station can be built. "They aren't on easy street," Kelly said.
Once the committee grants approval, permits must be sought for the project, as well as review from state highway and environmental officials, she said.
The project was granted approval under a provision in the law that grants designated "planned shopping centers" the right to build a gas station, according to Linda Latham, chief of development review for the county Department of Planning.
The designation is intended to help older shopping centers remain competitive, she said.
In order to get the designation, a shopping center must already exist, have a single owner, at least three exits to streets, and have 60,000 square feet or more of retail space, according to Latham.
Wilkens Beltway Plaza, which has 132,413 square feet of retail space, was designated as a planned shopping center on April 4, 2012, according to county records.
The plan submitted to the review committee proposed demolishing the vacant bank structure and building a 3,000-square-foot gas station with four fueling stations that can serve eight cars at once.
Many Giant Food supermarkets in Pennsylvania--owned by a sister company to the Landover-based chain--already have a branded gas station.
Thirteen Giant Food stores in Maryland have gas stations, with the 14th expected to become operational in Westminster "in the next couple of weeks," Miller said.
The chain intends to develop more gas stations at their stores in Maryland, but not all of them, according to Miller.
"We're going to increase the number of locations with gas stations, but not every location will have one," he said.
Giant Foods will honor its rewards program--in which shoppers receive 10 cents off gasoline for every $100 they spend at the store--at their own gas station, and will continue its relationship with Shell, according to Miller.
"This doesn't affect our gas rewards program with Shell," he said.
Residents expressed frustration about the impact of the gas station on the community, the speed with which the project is proceeding, and the lack of community involvement and feedback.
"At the moment, it appears fait accompli," said Marilyn Maitland, president of Kensington Improvement Association, who attended the June 19 meeting.
"We are taking a neutral stand at the moment, but our concern is with the traffic it will bring to the area," she said. "When the cars begin to stack up, it could create a bloody nightmare."
After the hearing, Maitland said, a Kimco representative offered to meet with the community association to discuss its concerns.
"It would have been helpful for Giant or Kimco to touch base with the community ahead of time," she said. "It would have been good public relations."