Monthly Archives: August 2007

East Campus: Getting to Green

leaf.jpgThe University, its development team and East Campus Steering Committee meet Tuesday, September 4 at 7:30 pm in 0100 Marie Mount to discuss environmental issues for the project. (Committee contact info here.) The University has been a leader in this area and should continue by integrating its environmental objectives with this project’s goals. This should be straightforward as the University has already made environmental stewardship a key component of its Master Plan. President Mote also recently signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Taken together, these set the stage for East Campus to demonstrate environmental and architectural innovation, creating a mixed use development with a carbon neutral footprint.

The East Campus Request for Proposal (RFP), however, is squishy at best on what measures might be employed: “The University’s Environmental Stewardship Guidelines which are incorporated into the Master Plan should be taken into consideration in the development of a concept, and if selected, a project.” Similarly, the objectives for the East Campus plan merely call upon the developer to “exhibit sensitivity to the environment.” While the development team included some green practices in its initial conceptual plan, Committee members have no solid information thus far. Hopefully, specifics will be forthcoming and posted in advance of the Sept. 4 meeting to allow the public and community representatives to provide informed comments. Make the jump for great resources Continue reading

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Filed under East Campus, Environment, Public Input, Public Transit, Sustainability, Traffic, Transportation

School Surcharge 101

calculator.jpgDespite what developers say, in Prince George’s County they do not pay an impact fee–they pay a surcharge. What is the difference? Pretty big. An impact fee assigns funds to the area impacted by the development. The law in Prince George’s County, which I believe originated at the state delegation level, collects a surcharge from developers in Prince George’s County of about $12,000 per unit outside the Beltway and $7,000 per unit inside (to stimulate revitalization). These amounts are linked to a formula and typically increase each year.

What is the case for a surcharge rather than an impact fee? Collecting a surcharge from each unit developed (dorms and senior housing are normally excluded) allows money to pool in the General Fund. Monies can move from the General Fund for allocation throughout the county via the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The surcharge strategy spreads out the benefit of new development to communities without comparable growth.

What is the downside of the surcharge? The neighborhoods needing school seats, especially to accommodate the new development-based increase in school-age children, may not see any benefit. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, Infrastructure, Planning, Schools

East Campus Community Input Begins

mall.jpgTonight the first meeting of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee will take place. Perhaps the University’s ambivalence about this process is reflected in the schizoid nature of the committee’s name: is this a community review group or a steering committee? The University has studiously avoided calling the group an advisory body and no notice of these meetings appears on the East Campus website, yet Pres. Mote’s letter of invitation anticipates “a lively dialogue and a collegial exploration of ideas,” while stating that committee members will learn a great deal about the project and be able “to provide input and to build broad support for it.” Uh, guys–maybe this would be more likely if adequate public notice was provided?

The University of Maryland, like UConn, Hendrix College and other campuses, has decided that a top university needs a great college town. Those of us who attended other land grant universities would not disagree. Apparently, downtown College Park, although improving in some ways, does not fit with the University’s vision. However, College Park’s lack of fine restaurants, retail options and other amenities is attributable, in part, to the same dilemma that has made for a less than vibrant campus culture: its proximity to Washington, DC. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, East Campus, Infrastructure, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor, Traffic

Support a Local Business: Glut Food Co-op

cherries.jpgUpdate: More info from Chris Doyle of Glut in the comments. Many of us know that local businesses give back significantly more to our community and local economy than corporate stores. The next step is supporting those businesses. Both East Campus and the Cafritz developers have mentioned including local businesses in their proposed retail mix. But let’s start with one that has served our community for almost 40 years. Nick Francis of the Gateway CDC has kindly given us permission to post this piece about Glut.

Some people have expressed concern about declining sales at Glut Food Co-op in Mount Rainier. Having worked there for four years during the 1990s, Glut is very dear to my heart. Here are a few things every shopper should know. (Perhaps some of these could become the basis for a new marketing strategy or advertising campaign.)

Glut was founded in 1968 by conscientious objectors to the Viet Nam war. In lieu of military service, they told the judge, they would bring “good food to poor people.” This, remember, was at a time when the cost of food was a much higher percentage of household expenditures than it is today. They helped form buying clubs from all over: MD, DC, VA, even WV. They ran trucks to New York and Pennsylvania, buying everything wholesale. They met in church basements to divvy up the goods. (There are still a few shoppers that date back to those days and the pattern of coming once or twice a month to stock up on large quantities of basic provisions was still still strongly in evidence when I worked there.) Glut quickly outgrew church basements and in 1971 rented a space in Mount Rainier, a place early Glut documents identify only as “the warehouse.” Once people understood what was going on, they asked if Glut would open to the general public, which they did sometime in the early 1970s. Continue reading


Filed under Community, Local Economy, Mount Rainier, Retail, Route 1 Corridor

How about this idea? Economic & Community Impact Review

book-highlighter-copy.jpgThe most recent set of Cafritz meetings has passed and been memorialized. Rethink College Park has done a nice job of summarizing the meetings for those of us who were on vacation. Supposedly comments will be posted soon on the Cafritz site, however, the various slide shows promised at past meetings would be great.

Between work and back to school shopping, we have to fit in still more meetings (how do our elected officials do this?!). East Campus meetings are about to kick off and another set of Cafritz meetings are scheduled for September–it is time to hit the books again and consider how major retail centers could change our Route 1 corridor.

This article is reprinted with kind permission from The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a free email newsletter published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. To read back issues or join the mailing list, visit here. Read about comprehensive planning here. It is interesting to see how areas with much lower density are addressing community concerns creatively. We need to start somewhere in Prince George’s, why not the Route 1 area?

A number of communities now require a comprehensive economic and community impact review before approving any new retail construction. Typically, the review is triggered when the proposed development exceeds a certain size (e.g., a retail store larger than 20,000 square feet or that will generate more than 500 vehicle trips per day). Continue reading


Filed under Developers, Growth, Local Economy, Planning, Route 1 Corridor