Category Archives: Community

Activists’ Guide to Surviving the Planning Board

A cooperative group of communities and citizens constitute the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, Inc. and they work across community boundaries on quality of life and planning issues. They have recently updated and distributed their null Activists’ Guide. With upcoming meetings  and the slew of plans in the pipeline at Park and Planning, this may be helpful to some.

The Guide remains a work-in-progress. IHHAAC seeks to assure accuracy and completeness. If you see any material which is not correct or is misleading, please advise us so that the next revision can include such changes. Similarly, if there is information which you would like to see added to expand this Guide, please share that information with us. We have no pride of authorship; the Guide is the work of many hands whose contributions are much appreciated.

Feel free to share this material widely. You also may post it anyplace you feel would be advantageous for the citizens of Prince George’s County.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Developers, Environment, Growth, Planning Board, Public Input, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Public Input 101–FAIL

The new Mixed-Use Zone legislation’s progress has slowed down somewhat and M-NCPPC has heard from enough people about the lack of public input, that hey, they decided to do more! During the last week of school and on a Monday night, yippee! Hopefully you have received this postcard inviting you to a meeting next Monday, June 15 7-9 pm. It’s also on the M-NCPPC site’s google-y calendar. However, the project’s schedule does not include this meeting nor a press release been issued or posted. No email to the gazillions of addresses they have collected.

This sort of half-hearted, last minute effort is why people remain skeptical of a wide range of Park & Planning efforts. Their outreach attempts are perceived as less than sincere and undercut promising initiatives. The M-NCPPC public affairs department should provide early guidance to planning staff in these matters and adjust outreach efforts–and work flow–as necessary. Council staff learned of this Monday. First-class postcards landed Tuesday. Six days notice is really not defensible–30 days is the minimum.

Municipalities’ involvement in this process has been sketchy at best, so a meeting has also been added for mayors and council members. But, gee whiz, all those impacted towns could have included this meeting in newsletters, cable access announcements, town council meetings and let their residents know.

The new Mixed Use Zone proposed is a version of Form-Based Code. This type of code is not inherently bad by any means; however, it has usually been used in specific neighborhoods, towns or cities–rather than county-wide. Typically, it involves an extensive community visioning process, charrette and hopefully results in a community-driven form-based code.

The county’s desire to simplify our development review process is understandable. But the big concern is that the public input process, the key to a successful buy-in from the impacted communities, appears to have been faulty from the start.

Note that our current conventional zoning process is not set aside, but exists in tandem with this new Mixed Use Zone based on Form-Based Code. This could create conflicts. There will be three or four types of mixed-use zones in place: the new Route 1 Sector Plan will use SmartCode (an open source form-based code planning system by one of its leading proponents), the proposed Mixed-Use Zone, the Mixed-Use Town Centers and “Town Center in a Box” packages for developments like Konterra.

Let’s really simplify and philosophically unite the huge and odd compendium of county code. Theoretically, you do this through a community visioning process, kind of like the stalled EnVision Prince George’s. Let’s take time to get it right. We agree with the points made recently by the Sierra Club:

Prince Georgians deserve cutting edge development where we can work, live, and shop, especially near Metro stops. But the design will be satisfactory only if we the people still have a say in what goes where. Yet reading of M-NCPPC’s draft bill raises many questions, such as:
-The newly greased approval pipeline removes the opportunity for residents to express their opinion on the shape of mega-developments.
-The bill transfers the review and approval of site plans from our elected representatives and the Planning Board to planning staff.
-This new MUZ legislation does not encourage or mandate that these large developments be located at or near transit centers, where they would be most successful. Potentially all 26 designated centers and 7 corridors would be eligible for fast-tracked, large developments—whether they are appropriate for the surrounding communities or not. See the General Plan on the concept of mixed use.
-Significant modifications to the site plan can be granted by the Planning Director after site plan approval. Once a site plan is approved (without public input or review by elected officials), deviations of up to 10% for building height, architectural materials, and parking spaces can be granted—again by planning staff.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cities and Towns, Community, Growth, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input

Buy Local: Shop, Eat & Drink

42-15529187This holiday season keep your hard-earned dollars in the community and working for you by spending locally.

You can have an impact. Shifting even a small amount of your spending from chains to locally owned businesses can have a major impact on the local economy. According to a new study, in Western Michigan, if the 600,000 residents of Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County were to redirect just 10 percent of their total spending from chains to local businesses, it would create nearly $140 million in new economic activity for the region and 1,600 new jobs.

Add that to a recent report on how Wal-Mart and other big box retailers legally skim sales tax and you have to wonder how priorities became so skewed. In Maryland alone, we’ve lost $31,000,000 in potential sales tax revenue.

Our new and redeveloping districts need you this season. Please support the locally owned businesses of Gateway Arts District, Hyattsville, EYA, University Town Center and in College Park. Think of these businesses for gift certificates, catering, office or class gift exchanges and more. Many are new businesses–let them know what you are looking for, ask if they order, speak up if you’d like to see a menu item added.

Buying locally creates community: support our local economy to build a sustainable future for the Route 1 Corridor.

1 Comment

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

Countywide Visioning Process Launches

Envision Prince George's

Friday brought the second one-day economic outlook forum called “Envision Prince George’s” sponsored by the Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), along with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Prince George’s County government. And while the morning was interesting and worthwhile, the afternoon presentations were the real deal.

Dr. Stephen Fuller, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis and professor of public policy at George Mason University gave a frank and unvarnished assessment of the strengths of the county and pulled no punches as he discussed where we were and where we needed to be to compete regionally for jobs. He spoke persuasively about past land use decisions and current opportunities. Richard Florida, professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City, followed with a fairly general talk. But on the heels of Fuller’s brief, it had a little more impact.

Planning Board Chairman Samuel J. Parker, Jr. stole the show though with his announcement that the Planning Board would launch a visioning process, with an opportunity for significant public input. This process, while long overdue, will allow community input to shape our area’s future development.

Envision Prince George’s has four major goals:

  • Educate a broad cross-section of community stakeholders about the collaborative visioning process and need for their participation.
  • Engage individuals and groups across the county in a facilitated process to solicit their input into the vision for the county’s future.
  • Articulate their desired outcomes as a shared vision for quality of life in the county.
  • Translate that vision into subsequent goals and implementation strategies that help shape agency work programs and guide county policies. (Emphasis added)

The final product will be a community development framework that can inform decision-making, for example, in land use development, planning, and community services that are in alignment with future vision of the county as described by its committed and engaged citizenry.

Many jurisdictions across the country have forward-thinking plans, one of them is just across the Potomac. In 1960, Arlington County, Virginia adopted a comprehensive plan with five basic elements. Politicians have come and gone, but the comprehensive plan has continued to provide a unifying framework for Arlington’s growth. It has been updated, but basic principles remain intact and the county is now the transit-oriented development model for the rest of the nation.

Let’s hope that the same sort of coherent and community-driven plan, along with an updated zoning ordinance, can come out of Prince George’s visioning process. Kudos to Mr. Parker and his colleagues for kicking this off. Visit the project site and sign up now to help shape your county.

1 Comment

Filed under Community, Events, Infrastructure, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

Updating the Route 1 Sector Plan

Exciting summer reading!

Planner Chad Williams of M-NCPPC will make a presentation on the Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment on Monday for the University Park Town Council (event details here). The public is invited and Mayor John Tabori hopes residents of neighboring communities will attend as well.

Williams will discuss the possibility of extending the Route 1 Sector Plan’s boundaries, which encourages dense, mixed-use development along Route 1. The plan is currently confined to Route 1 in College Park but a preliminary proposal would move the southern boundary to East-West Highway/410. Williams will discuss

  • the plan’s purposes
  • preliminary boundaries
  • consultant team
  • timeline
  • citizen participation process

But the plan’s proposed boundaries will be the evening’s focus. The towns of University Park, Riverdale Park and the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park would be impacted by the boundary extension. What are the positives and negatives?

Would this allow Route 1 towns to better address traffic concerns? Would it involve rezoning Route 1 properties from single family to mixed use? Would it be better to pursue comprehensive planning standards along Route 1 from Eastern Ave. to 495? This might knit together our sector plans, transit districts and overlays into a coherent whole.

Williams presented a lot of information on growth in the Route 1 corridor at a crowded November gathering in College Park. His PowerPoint and the plan is available here, under Council Forum on November 2007. It provides an overview of projects already approved and in the pipeline and details the dramatic increase in housing and commercial inventory headed for Route 1.

Leave a comment

Filed under Calvert Hills, College Park, Community, Events, Growth, Hyattsville, Planning, Public Input, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, Route 1 Sector Plan, University Park

Last? East Campus Meeting

UPDATE: Portions of the presentation from this meeting are now available, including the PowerPoint with a look at the architecture. Check our Events page–if you missed the meeting, you have another chance. Time to start thinking about the $180 million dollar question: do taxpayers wish to foot the bill (through a TIF) for East Campus infrastructure in exchange for future tax revenues? Will the traffic and school impacts be worth it?

Did you miss the June 19th East Campus Open House? That’s OK, it was not really ready for prime time: significant building changes were made just before the meeting, no presentation or informational session took place and out-of-date architectural renderings were shared. The Gazette, Rethink College Park and Diamondback all offer reports.

But we’ll hope for the best as the East Campus public input process lurches forward with the next meeting on Monday, July 14. This Steering Committee meeting provides an opportunity to see Foulger-Pratt/Argo’s Detailed Site Plan (DSP). No conceptual site plan is needed and the DSP will be submitted for development review shortly. Then, especially if you live nearby, you can become Person of Record PDF (actually anyone can).

Folks, this is where the rubber meets the road. The committee will likely be looking for more detail on these issues:

  • LEED certification
  • Storm water management
  • Sustainability
  • Parking update
  • UMD shuttle status
  • Traffic study
  • the TIF necessary to make the project possible
  • East Campus’ impact on area infrastructure
  • and last, but not least, architecture. That’s a whole ‘nother post.

Please attend the meeting, talk with your rep about any concerns or email your rep. Unfortunately, nothing new has been posted to the East Campus site, but you can review materials from past meetings here, just click on the meeting’s topic. Previous posts here, Rethink College Park’s work here.

Leave a comment

Filed under College Park, Community, East Campus, Events, Public Input

From Our Inbox: East Campus & College Towns

charvilletrees.jpg

East Campus Steering Committee meetings have had a number of careful observers. Many agree that three divergent tracks–the university’s goals, the community’s concerns and the developer’s interest in the bottom line–have not coalesced. This may be attributable to a backwards process. The Steering Committee’s work has been akin to a rushed, project-specific visioning process, something that clearly should have preceded the RFP and selection of a developer. Progress has been made with the campus on sustainability issues. Unfortunately, they are simply joining the parade, rather than leading it. But the project’s character will make or break it. One of our readers addresses this below.

The Foulger-Pratt/Argo team doesn’t seem to understand how college towns work, but after listening to the presentations I think it might go beyond the question of what kinds of stores people like to frequent.

My impression is that the team consists of generally well-informed and well-intentioned regional suburban developers. They are very conscious of market trends, Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Design, Developers, East Campus, Local Economy, Public Input