Smart Growth Close to Home?

A small group of area residents met recently to discuss concerns about the possible impacts (increased traffic, crowded schools and environmental concerns) of the new residential and retail developments being planned for our immediate area. Besides the EYA townhouses and shops under construction in Hyattsville there are three other development projects in the works. One is a 1,160 unit apartment building in the process of getting permit approval to be built on Belcrest Rd. abutting Northwestern HS. Next, the University of Maryland is proposing a major redevelopment on the southeast corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway that will include graduate and undergraduate housing, restaurants, and retail. As the University project is only in the planning stages no specific information is available, but the University does envision a dense urban type usage. Last, is the proposed development of the Cafritz property across Route 1 from University Park of which there is no specific information at this point.

It goes without saying these developments would increase the population density of our immediate area; more cars, more pollution and more school crowding—we are part of the county’s urban tier. While not being against development it is this group’s hope that our government agencies take into account the scope of these projects when they make decisions about which ones will proceed, in what form and what amenities the developers could give back to the communities (for example, free shuttle bus service to Metro, green buffer zones, etc.) for being allowed the privilege of building here. Just because some of these sites are close to Metro doesn’t mean that congestion won’t increase.

Hope for assurances that wise and maybe visionary solutions are likely from the folks currently approving new construction in our county were dashed when we learned that our area planners treat each development project discretely, therefore totally disregarding the impact of one development on another. How troubling given the scope of each of these proposed projects. Clearly if we want true smart growth we will need to speak up.

How? While mulling over action ideas members of our group are urging first steps for all interested neighbors to get involved. Follow this link for several meetings where a strong citizen presence would be well noted.–Sandy E.

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