Monthly Archives: June 2007

Worries & Action

Route 1 Growth began with a series of, well…, worries, as we wondered what changes rapid development would bring to our crazy quilt of Rt. 1 communities and neighborhoods.

  • How will our already taxed infrastructure hold up, particularly Rt. 1 and E-W Hwy.?
  • What is the environmental cost?
  • Can our neighborhoods and towns maintain their history and sense of identity in the face of such rapid expansion?
  • What is its impact on our quality of life and community cohesion?
  • What is the impact of such a large influx of new housing inventory?
  • Will there be an impact on the racial, generational and economic diversity of Rt. 1 communities?

Some of us are natural worriers and have been thinking about this for a good while, others were nudged along by the Wachovia, Cafritz, Landy developments or others in the pipeline. So we talked to neighbors, friends, parents and people we know with a little expertise. A couple of meetings, this blog and more conversation led to the following statement of our mission, vision and principles (and here ). We need to demand more of the planning process and developers. Remember–if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Discussion welcome.

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Filed under Growth, Infrastructure, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

POV: Concern Grows in University Hills

duck1.jpgUniversity Hills is a quiet neighborhood bordered by Adelphi Road, University Blvd., Northwestern High School and the University Hills Park and Duck Pond, a popular destination for both locals and people from as far away as the District. Our children attend University Park Elementary School, a mere mile away. A few minutes’ drive gets us to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro–as well as the amenities of daily life, such as a grocery store, a Target and a modest shopping mall. The library is actually within walking distance, but if one is loaded down with books, there is free and plentiful parking.

The Landy Property development threatens to change all of this. Yes, the school will still be there. The Metro and the stores–even more of them in fact–will still be there. And the library will still be walking distance from our homes. However…

With the overcrowding at the elementary school resulting from Landy, our children will likely be reassigned to far away Paint Branch Elementary School, a school to which we have no community connection. This move has been previously proposed, but Paint Branch promises to be a good 45 minute or hour long bus ride away in rotten Route 1 traffic. (And it will only get worse).

Could the mile and a half drive to the Metro Station become a thirty minute trip? Since the Landy Property developers have coyly ducked the suggestion of adding a Metro shuttle to their development, and because they have allotted two parking spaces per unit (amounting to an astonishing 2,400 cars), you can bet that traffic snarls will overwhelm intersections. Think of the potential back-ups at East-West Highway and Adelphi/Queens Chapel and the various Adelphi, Belcrest and Toledo intersections. Which brings us to pedestrian safety… Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Growth, Hyattsville, Infrastructure, Landy Property, Planning Board, Route 1 Corridor

Where Were the Brownies?

I attended the presentation of the proposed Landy developmentcrumbs.jpg last Tuesday. And while there were no brownies or slick promotional pieces like at the Cafritz meetings, a fair bit of information was imparted to the community members.

New designs for the buildings took center stage at the meeting. Slated to house 1216 apartments, they will feature many large windows, bay windows, private balconies and rooftop areas complete with recreational facilities and trees. This will be a gated community with its own on-site parking and security. Also part of the plan is a parking garage with more than 2431 spaces.

Community concern focused on smart growth and environmental issues: storm water management during and after construction, traffic congestion and school overcrowding. In addition, questions were asked about light pollution, stream health, green spaces and vegetation. These topics were raised repeatedly by residents of Hyattsville, University Park and College Park.

I felt only the storm water management issues were adequately answered, with detailed information on buffer zones, drainage areas and a sediment pond. It sounded well thought out, but I am in no position to evaluate the soundness of their plans.

Traffic concerns were brushed aside with assurances that the location’s proximity to the Metro will minimize the traffic impact. When asked directly if the developer would consider a shuttle to and from the Metro, the response indicated that transportation of this sort is better left to municipalities. Concerns over offering two parking spaces per unit were dismissed as if this is not a negotiable point. The developer intends this to be a luxury project and that, apparently, requires two cars per unit. Continue reading

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Filed under College Park, Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Infrastructure, Landy Property, Traffic, University Park

Mapping Our Past & Future

usa-map-wooden-jigsaw-puzzle.jpgAs we contemplate the incredible amount of growth the Route 1 community faces, it might be worth taking a look backwards. Our area’s growth is illustrated graphically over time on this map, buildings pop up as you move from the 1800s to the present. To see your neighborhood, just click and drag the map in the correct direction. FAQs are here. If you like maps, also look at PG Atlas.

If, however, that’s not enough fun for you, then check out our expanded planning links on More Info. The Planning Board’s work remains something of a mystery to many residents. We’ve tried to gather some of the more useful links that make it easier to keep up with growth in our area. Don’t be intimidated by the lingo: a little reading and you will soon by tossing off TDDP (Transit District Development Plan), TMA (Traffic Management Area) or TOD (Transit Oriented Development) with panache–or at least a minimum of confusion. Then, of course, there’s fun for the whole family on the kids page.

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Filed under Growth, Planning Board

Landy’s Pros & Cons

Tonight the Hyattsville and University Park councilslandy-pic.jpg discuss the Landy Property, 1100-1300 units to be built on Belcrest Road behind Northwestern High School, and tomorrow Hyattsville hosts a public meeting for the same project. Citizens and council members will be operating without benefit of the M-NCPPC’s staff report or recommendations, which strikes us as more than a little backward. It would seem that
Public Input> Staff Report> Municipal Review> Planning Board Action
would be a more logical sequence of events than the current planning process.

While this project received preliminary approval in 2001, the plans have been subject to considerable revision and controversy. There are couple pluses to the project.

  • Decent design
  • On-site environmental mitigation
  • Upscale development

However, there are a host of negatives.

  • Too many units—whether it is 1100 or 1300 apartment units, though spacious and upscale, are still apartments. Hyattsville would prefer condos, but that’s probably not realistic given the housing market. Let’s at least get one tower designated for condos upfront and work towards converting the entire development.
  • A tremendous impact on area schools that are already overcrowded—the 2001 staff report’s predictions are based on erroneous school capacity numbers. There appears to be no movement by PGCPS to provide the additional seats we need for students of all ages. Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Infrastructure, Landy Property, Public Input

The Cafritz Candy Store’s Closed

cafritz.jpgWell, temporarily at least. The Landy and Cafritz developments have been approached very differently. But both are adjacent to communities of single family homes and will have large impacts on their neighbors. The Cafritzes invited us to dream a bit, perhaps because they wish to change their zoning. At Thursday’s summation meeting, community input was recapped with a PowerPoint, brownies were served, schmoozing took place.

First, former students and colleagues of Cafritz architects Matt Bell, a specialist in high density developments, and custom and affordable housing specialist Ralph Bennett’s are taking bets that 3 plans already exist, with 3 iterations of each. Now Matt and Ralph take our comments, see what elements work with the client’s goals and produce a plan–that attempts to build the political coalition that will allow the zoning change and eventual approval.

Second, before a zoning change or approval, as residents of the Route 1 community, we need to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Do we want a commercial area with Whole Foods (or any destination store) and the additional traffic it would bring to this area? Would East Campus be a better site for Whole Foods? It is accessible from Kenilworth and Route 1.
  • How will the Cafritz residents move (from apartments, condos, town homes) to the Metro? Will they be providing a shuttle? Is this a Transit Oriented Development with limited parking?
  • Would this development be more acceptable to its neighbors if the Cafritz family acquired an adjacent property to provide access from 410 or River Road (see slideshow)?
  • Will this be a sustainable, green development (preferably LEED Platinum) that preserves a decent percentage of green space? Continue reading

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Filed under Architects, Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, University Park

I Make a Motion

Our county’s planning process might easily be improved by a couple small changes.

gerald-kings-vision-of-riverdale.jpgThe Wachovia Bank in Riverdale Park was approved by the town just week ago, 6/7. The Planning Board will review it today (they approved it but required some changes-3 drive thru lanes). To be located at Route 1 & 410, the bank has been heavily discussed on town and neighborhood lists because it would add drive thru lanes that exit on 410 and 1. (The staff planner recommends disapproval of the drive thru but then provides contingencies should the Planning Board approve). Though this project has been in the works for some time, this short and very tight time frame prompts me to suggest that the Planning Board:

  • Require that the item be placed on an agenda 30 days after the staff report’s issuance or a municipality has acted on the matter (with accompanying signage). Current practice limits the opportunity for input from residents of neighboring communities.
  • Seek out additional meeting spots and rotate your meetings through the county on a regular basis to encourage community participation in the planning process. The distance to Upper Marlboro and lengthy waits greatly diminishes the likelihood that citizens will attend.

Reasonable public notice, community input/participation and transparency must become stronger elements in the planning process in Prince George’s County.

Seconds for this motion accepted in the comments, or offer your own ideas.

Addendum The Landy Property faces a similarly tight timeline–the staff report comes out 6/27 with a Planning Board hearing 2 weeks later. Letters expressing your opinion should go to our Planning Board, with copies to your mayor, town councilmember and Councilmembers Will Campos & Eric Olson. Visit Elected Representatives & Events for addresses and details. Letters to the Planning Board should reference DSP-99048/01 and allow sufficient time for letters to be received.

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Filed under Developers, Growth, Planning Board